Will one plan fit all when it comes to infrastructure planning?

The Federal Government’s 50 billion dollar infrastructure investment and the appointment of a Minister for Cities are great steps forward for infrastructure planning in Australia, yet we’re still waiting for planning to become a long-term exercise that delivers real integration, consistency and confidence for cities. Greg Steele, CEO, Arcadis Australia Pacific, discusses.

An aerial view of a CBD

"Planning now needs to become a bipartisan, multi-layered and transparent process that encompasses all issues facing our cities both now and into the future." Greg Steele, CEO, Arcadis Australia Pacific

It’s been heartening to see the Prime Minister and the media talking so much about infrastructure lately, but unfortunately it often misses the point.

While the Federal Government’s 50 billion dollar infrastructure investment and the appointment of a Minister for Cities are great steps forward, we’re still waiting for planning to become a long-term exercise that delivers real integration, consistency and confidence to everyone involved.

I think we all now recognize how important cities have become. This is the century of global urbanization because cities are not only driving jobs, investment and wealth, but are the most sustainable, livable options for the billions who want to live in them.

Making them denser, smarter and greener is where infrastructure can play a defining role. Unfortunately though we do a poor job of selling the benefits of public investment in roads and rail to the public, or finding innovative ways to capture that value to help us fund more of the same in the future.

More importantly, it’s how we lift infrastructure planning and spending above a ‘quick fix’ project focus so that it’s above the political fray and looks 30 to 50 years ahead, taking into account the whole needs of a city through fully integrated planning.

Arcadis understands these complexities and in our MODe approach we lay out key strategies to improve the way we design, fund, build and measure the benefits of mobility hubs like metropolitan train stations. Yet while it’s great for practitioners, MODe is, I believe, only one aspect of 21st Century planning.

A large part of the challenge is the unmistakable fact that all stakeholders involved in creating our new cities-politicians, government agencies, developers and community groups, are too isolated from each other for the dialogue to be anything but fragmented or adversary.

This is why we see many projects becoming political footballs; often abandoned, made over and taken in entirely new directions when there is a change of government, often without any consideration for how disruptive this process is can be for our cities and further investment.

I believe planning now needs to become a bipartisan, multi-layered and transparent process that encompasses all issues facing our cities both now and into the future in order to create a much broader vision supported by all.

The recent Australian Infrastructure Plan ,with its 93 projects - many of them roads and rail - is a much needed investment boost, but how do these individual projects mesh with the city-centric plans in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane?

Sadly, our cities are just as challenged when it comes to comprehensive, sustainable planning and now, it looks like Sydney is finally putting many of the pieces together, but that is another story altogether.

Greg Steele

Group Executive for Asia Pacific Ask me a question
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