In the 2019 Federal Budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the Australian Government would invest $100 billion over the next 10 years towards major new transport infrastructure projects. It’s certainly a big number. But it’s also little wonder when you consider Australia’s population is projected to surge well beyond 31 million by 2034.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, the infrastructure ramifications will be far reaching, especially when overlayed with other factors like an increasing focus on climate and sustainability. The economic impacts of this – and, yes, opportunities – will be seen everywhere from an urgent need to improve congested road, rail and public transportation systems to meeting the rapidly-changing demands placed on the Nation’s water and energy networks.
But, as always, there’s a catch.
While investment pipelines look robust right now, it remains a volatile time for infrastructure policy with pressure being exerted from many directions. The challenge is knowing which pipelines are the right ones to tap – and then being in a position to effectively tap them.
Success typically lies in boardrooms finding that illusive sweet spot between insight and foresight. Using our own experiences as an example, it’s about taking a proactive and ongoing role to ensure, despite continued changes, we’re able to maintain the skills, equipment and systems necessary to retain our place at the Nation’s infrastructure table for many years to come.
When it comes to insights, Infrastructure Australia continues to be an excellent source of industry information. In particular, we find one of the most reliable yardsticks for infrastructure spending is the annually-updated Infrastructure Australia Priority List. Twenty-five new initiatives were added in 2019 and, with assessment of 2020 business cases nearing completion, more will be added very soon – making it essential reading.
Looking ahead, we believe the following areas warrant particularly close attention for any business whose fortunes, like our own, are linked to Australia’s infrastructure:
A fast-changing energy grid – Australia’s energy market is undergoing a complex transition with oil, electricity and water all forecast to grow slower than GDP, while gas and renewables are expected to outstrip GDP. Infrastructure Australia has already flagged an urgent need for the modernisation of the National energy grid to reliably accommodate these changes, something likely to generate significant new infrastructure projects over the next decade.
Climate and sustainability – Adapting to the impacts of climate change and pursuing infrastructure solutions with smaller and more sustainable environmental footprints will become an even greater focus for policymakers and planners. New benchmarks will quickly emerge and operators must be able to meet these, or be left behind.
Extreme weather – With the increasing number and intensity of extreme weather events, added pressure will be placed on Australia’s ageing infrastructure assets. Repairing and strengthening these assets will provide major opportunities for operators with access to maintenance expertise, technology and equipment.
Urban congestion – Estimates put the annual cost of congestion in our capital cities at $25 billion. This is projected to reach $40 billion by 2030 with many of Australia’s key urban road and rail corridors likely to far exceed their intended capacities. Given this, it’s reasonable to expect road and rail investment levels will continue to grow, exponentially in some instances.
Skills and resources shortages – Circumventing skills and equipment shortfalls will continue to be a major and very necessary priority. Developing a stronger understanding of the infrastructure pipeline will provide a sharp strategic edge, by allowing astute operators to make better investment decisions, providing a competitive advantage in public and private tenders.
What do you see as the biggest infrastructure opportunities over the next decade? Are you well positioned to tap into them? Please share your thoughts, below, or you can contact us directly on 13 15 52.