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Solid foundations for asset managers: IPWEA Conference

Young IPWEA Chair Ben Clark and IPWEA Australasia CEO Cathy Morcom.

The biennial Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia set the pace for a conference focused on gearing asset managers and engineers for success.

Vibrant futures and solid foundations inspires Australia’s public works and engineering community to work towards better community outcomes.

It is this resolve that saw more than 500 delegates land in Hobart for the biennial Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) conference.

In Australia’s largest conference on public works infrastructure and asset management, the conference covered more than 130 presentations in six concurrent streams and five plenary sessions.

Industry experts, senior representatives and thought leaders across local government, road construction, original equipment manufacturing and consultancy shared the latest trends, emerging technologies and technical knowledge with a focus on IPWEA’s three E’s – education, encouragement and evolution.

The Governor of Tasmania, Her Excellency, Professor The Honourable, Kate Warner, opened the plenary official conference by highlighting the May 2018 Hobart flash floods, signalling the conference’s emphasis on building vibrant futures and solid foundations.

“I noticed that there are quite a few sessions devoted to wastewater, stormwater and floods in your conference program. You will probably not be surprised to know that these issues played have played a role in the history of Government House,” Ms Warner said.

IPWEA Australasia President Matthew Greskie opened the conference by promising fine foods, stunning scenery and an opportunity to network.

Matthew Greskie, IPWEA Australasia President, opened the conference by looking back at the successes of the past two years and re-affirming the exciting days ahead.

He noted the previous 2017 conference in Perth offered fine foods, stunning scenery, highly technical content and an opportunity to network and was confident the next four days would bring this.

Mr. Greskie predicted future trends relevant to the local government sector, including more capacity building programs.

“Asset management will be a profession in its own right and we want it to be a global skill that translates around the world,” he said.

He hoped all products and services would incorporate the latest technology and said IPWEA would continue to build new relationships with stakeholders, thanking current and new directors, including newly-appointed CEO Cathy Morcom.

Ms. Morcom addressed the audience by highlighting her first 24 days in the job and her plan for the next year. Future goals include updates to the Plant & Vehicle Maintenance Safety Practise Guide, Plan and Vehicle Management Manual and a look into IPWEA’s future strategy.


Trish White, National President and Chair of Engineers Australia, noted her organisation’s 100 years since foundation and status as the nation’s principal engineering association. She noted that infrastructure isn’t just about assets and budgets, it’s about projects that change people’s lives to develop vibrant futures.

She said the engineers in the room had an opportunity to create smart cities and apply new methodologies and technologies throughout the asset lifestyle, pointing to robots, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles as part of the future.

Ms. White said that in the design process, we are likely to see an even higher use of technology to reduce costs, environmental impacts and improve safety. She said that the cities of the future are no longer disconnected parts and engineers need to conceptualise cities as virtual living structures capable of change.

Ms. White highlighted that engineering places public works professionals as influencers shaping societies and said the quality of the digital world and its connection with physical spaces is an important opportunity and responsibility. The task ahead, she said, is to look at the impact of decision-making on project outcomes.

Ben Clark of the City of Adelaide was presented with the Young IPWEA Australasia Emerging Leader Award, with the remainder presented at the Grand Platinum Komatsu Dinner.

“As YIPWEA chair it was exciting to see the number of young professionals engaging with experienced professionals throughout the conference. This engagement is the beginning of bridging the gap between our seasoned professionals and future leaders,” Mr. Clark told Roads & Infrastructure.


Platinum sponsors Komatsu.

On day two, Geoff Webb of GR Consulting, highlighted the opportunities and risks for today’s future leaders. Drawing on the Fault Lines Research Report by Mercer, Mr Webb highlighted that today’s business world is shaped by five key forces of change carving tomorrow’s landscape – low economic growth, technology disruption, regulation, living longer and global connectedness.

Ashish Shah, Road Asset Manager at Logan City Council, highlighted digital engineering for local government road infrastructure planning. In one case study, Logan City Council used Building Information Modelling (BIM) in its upgrade of Logan’s iconic Red Bridge. BIM was used in tender preparation and assisted to navigate through constraints such as the difficulty of using scaffolding over water, proximity to overhead powerlines and environmental impacts.

In the conference exhibition hall, a range of exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest machinery, asset management systems and construction material and services. The breadth of exhibitors comprised Platinum sponsor Komatsu, Downer, LB Australia, Colas Group Asset Finda and the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland.

Speaking to Roads & Infrastructure, Komatsu’s Phil Atley said feedback from conference delegates was overwhelmingly positive, with key interest on road maintenance and construction sites.

“This is our 20th year association with IPWEA and with 500 delegates here it’s a time for us to release our new model grader, the D7, an environmentally friendly machine with superior technology,” Mr. Atley said.

Alan Hay, Senior Strategy Analyst at ARRB, said the company aims to bridge the gap for local government in sustainability, recycled materials and delivering efficiencies. He said ARRB has reached out to local governments to inform the development of industry guides.

Gordon Sterling delivers the Golden Sponsor Address on asset lifecycle management at the IPWEA conference.

“The Federal Government has invested over $2 million for ARRB to write guides for local government in the language of local government and cover things from sealed roads to unsealed roads and materials to structures,” Mr Hay said.

In closing the conference, Rod Ellis, IPWEA SA Vice-President, highlighted the next conference in Adelaide, in 2021.

IPWEA President Matt Greskie reaffirmed the knowledge sharing and networking achieved over the four-day event and thanked the speakers for their efforts.

Speaking to Roads & Infrastructure, Mr. Greskie said roads and infrastructure is among the most popular topics at IPWEA conferences.

“It was pleasing in 2019 to see this content merge with the important issues of environmental road surfacing and recycling innovation at the IPWEA International Public Works Conference,” Mr. Greskie said.

“With the technical partnerships in place among road industry professionals and national standard authorities, and the growing appetite for sustainable road materials, we can be certain the conference presenters covering these subjects have contributed to the knowledge base of our conference delegates who make decisions about building safe and durable roads in Australian communities.”

You can read Roads & Infrastructure’s full wrap up of the biennial Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia Conference in the November edition.


IPWEA unveiled Australia and New Zealand’s most outstanding public works engineering projects and professionals at the IPWEA Australasia Excellence Awards and Komatsu Gala Dinner.

The winners included:

Keith H Wood Medal

Winner: Ken Halstead, NSW

IPWEA Australasia Public Works Leadership Medal 2019

Winner: Ossie Martinz
City of Monash (Vic)

Excellence in Water Project 2019

Winner: Hartfield Park Waterproofing Project
City of Kalamunda (WA)

Excellence in Road Safety 2019

Winner: Flooded Roads Smart Warning System
Logan City Council (QLD)

Young IPWEA Emerging Leader Award 2019

Winner: Ben Clark
City of Adelaide (SA)

Excellence in Environment & Sustainability 2019

Winner: Bayswater Brook Catchment Management Plan
City of Bayswater (WA)

 Honourable Mention
Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ)

Best Public Works Project 2019 under $2.0m

Winner: Five Dock Main streetscape improvements
City of Canada Bay (NSW)

 Honourable Mention
Kowanyama Social Precincts
Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council (QLD)

IPWEA Australasia Public Works Medal for Project of the Year 2019

Winner: Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (Toogoolawah to Moore)
Somerset Regional Council (QLD)

Best Public Works Project 2019 $2.0m – $5.0m

Winner: Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (Toogoolawah to Moore)
Somerset Regional Council (QLD)

National Asset Management Award (NAMie)

For Best Asset Management Paper presented at the conference

Winner: Digital Engineering for Local Government Infrastructure Planning and Management
Ashish Shah
Logan City Council (QLD)

Best Public Works Project 2019 over $5.0m

Winner: Margaret Mahy Family Playground
CERA and WSP Opus (NZ)

E.J. (Ted) Hooper Medal

For the best overall paper presented at the conference

Winner: Temuka Water Event (Asbestos)
Ashley Harper
Timaru District Council (NZ)

Excellence in Asset Management 2019

Winner: Wellington Water Supply Resilience Study
Wellington Water and Stantec (NZ)

People’s Choice Award
Voted by delegates best presentation at the conference

Winner: The Tyranny of Distance’ – Challenges of Infrastructure Delivery in Remote Indigenous Communities
Jo O’Brien
Tonkin Consulting

Excellence in Project Innovation 2019
Winner: Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Rainforest Discovery Centre
Sunshine Coast Council (QLD)



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