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Rising Sea Levels, Water Security Top Infrastructure Priority List

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Global climate issues have started to hit home with a number of high-priority initiatives singled out by Infrastructure Australia as of significant national importance.

Four environmental focuses have spearheaded Infrastructure Australia’s new list of high-priority initiatives, with “resilience” against extreme weather billed as the key theme for the year ahead.

Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew said that for the first time the focus on climate initiatives reflected both the diversity and urgency of the nation's future infrastructure needs.

“Compounding issues of unprecedented infrastructure demand, severe drought and other environmental changes, require a focus on our resilience strategies and a consensus on where to invest now for our nation’s future prosperity.

“As an independent advisory body, it’s our role to bring these problems and opportunities into the national spotlight to spark investment and coordinated action from industry and government.”

This year’s list drew on more than 200 submissions—the largest number since the list’s inception, to make recommendations for a $58 billion infrastructure pipeline of nationally significant projects.

Each project was supported by a business case and was deemed to be worth more than $30 million a year in material net benefit to the Australian economy.

Related: Major Infrastructure Projects Kicking Off Development

▲ The combination of drought, bushfire and a one-off heavy rainfall event is a “worst case scenario” for water supply in areas where facilities are outdated.


Headlining the list’s resilience-focused planning and investment strategy were compelling climate-based initiatives covering water security, the nation’s rapidly growing waste problem and coastal inundation due to rising sea levels.

The proposals around a national water strategy enhancing the water security of towns and cities came in response to the Barwon-Darling River, Macquarie River and Lower Darling all experiencing critical water shortages as New South Wales currently endures the most severe drought on record.

Infrastructure Australia called for a long-term national water strategy to be developed within five years to guide governments, businesses and individuals “on how to efficiently and sustainably capture, use and manage water”.

The report also called for a national waste and recycling management strategy to boost Australia’s recycling rate from its current 55 per cent to the target of 70 per cent set out in the 2014-21 waste avoidance and resource recovery strategy.

The costs of protecting cities from rising sea levels was also laid bare with Infrastructure Australia highlighting that the effects of flooding due to coastal inundation of up to 1 metre could cause damage of between $60,000 and $80,000 per household.

“Climate change brings with it higher temperatures, unpredictable seasonal rainfall and water availability, more extreme winds, more extreme weather events and bushfire seasons the likes of which Australia has never seen,” Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe said.

“By raising the profile of these issues we aim to provoke action in every jurisdiction, as well as exploration into tailored, local solutions.”

▲ Sydney Metro remains of high-priority as the city's rail network servicing the CBD is currently near capacity at peak periods.


Regional Australia also emerged as a focus of this edition of the Infrastructure Priority List with a call to improve mobile telecommunications coverage in remote areas and improve regional road safety.

“Truly staying connected requires not only safe and efficient transport options, but also ensuring our towns and regional communities have the same access to telecommunications as the rest of Australia,” Madew said.

“This is to also provide people with reliable access to electronic payment systems, emergency alerts and other critical services.”


High-priority projects

StateProjectProblem/opportunity descriptionDelivery timeframe (years)
NSWSydney Metro - City and SouthwestSydney rail network capacity 370-5
NSWM4 Motorway upgradeConnectivity in outer western Sydney0-5
NSWWestern Sydney AirportSydney aviation capacity5-10
VICM80 Ring Road upgradeMelbourne M80 Western Ring Road congestion0-5
VICNorth East LinkConnectivity between M80 and M3 in outer north-east Melbourne5-10
QLDBrisbane MetroBrisbane inner-city public transport network capacity0-5
NATIONALTown and city water securityWater supply and resilience for town and city populations0-15
NATIONALNational water strategyStrategic planning for water capture, use and management0-5
NATIONALCoastal inundation protection strategySea-level rise and flooding impacts10-15
NATIONALNational waste and recycling managementWaste management and recycling challenges0-5
NATIONALNational road maintenance strategyMaintenance backlog and preventative maintenance0-5


Newly-listed projects of priority

StateProjectProblem/opportunity descriptionDelivery timeframe (years)
NSWPrinces Highway upgrade from Nowra to the Victorian borderRoad connectivity between Nowra and Victorian border0-5
NSWThe John Hunter health and innovation precinctCapacity constraints and opportunity for new services10-15
NSWGreat Western highway improvements between Katoomba and LithgowRoad connectivity between Katoomba and Lithgow0-5
NSWSouth Creek integrated land use and water cycle managementOpportunity for integrated water cycle management benefits0-5
VICCycling access to Melbourne CBDCycling access to Melbourne CBD0-5
VICFrankston public transport connectivityPublic transport connectivity to Frankston0-5
QLDNational land transport network maintenanceNational Land Transport Network upgrade0-5
QLDInland road network upgradeImprovements for national, state and local roads in inland Queensland5-10
WAWheatbelt secondary freight network improvementsWestern Australia freight network capacity0-5
WARegional and rural road network improvements and Perth water securityWater supply and resilience for Perth0-5
WAGreat Northern Highway improvements from Broome to KununurraRoad connectivity between Broome and Kununurra0-5
WAouth Coast Highway improvements from Albany to EsperanceRoad connectivity between Albany and Esperance5-10
WASouth West Interconnected Systems transformationProvision of affordable and reliable electricity services5-10
WAPort Hedland port capacityOpportunity for increased cargo imports and exports5-10

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