From roads to bridges to recreational areas, it will cost around $30 billion to improve infrastructure in Australia. This lofty figure was first announced in 2018 based on the relative degradation of the country’s assets. Unfortunately, there has been little progress made so far.
The infrastructure backlog in Australia is defined as the cost of renewal projects deemed necessary to bring infrastructure up to an acceptable standard. This standard is typically determined by the Council or other relevant entity.
These critical areas are of immense importance to public safety and Australians’ quality of life, but they continue to face neglect due to a variety of hurdles — and this was before COVID-19. See what’s standing in the way today, what still needs to be done, and how Antoun fits in.
Australian Infrastructure Challenges
The reasons behind the infrastructure backlog are complex, but there have been several notable trends. A primary reason is because the infrastructure of yesterday was never built to handle the population of today. In the mid-1990s, there was also a push to cut funding for improvements and expansion, all while the costs to improve those structures have risen.
A lack of proper data and reporting across sectors has made it difficult to identify and target the structures that need preventative maintenance. Part of this is simply a logistical challenge: improving a single bridge in poor condition not only requires serious capital, but it’s also a major time investment. Multiply this across the country to civil construction of every variety, and the equation becomes much more difficult to work.
And while we debate these problems, life continues to move forward. Total kilometres traveled has increased by about 2% every year from 1998 to 2018. Weather events, such as extreme heat, wind, and flooding as a result of climate change, are also taking its toll on existing infrastructures and pushing the need for renewal.
Finally, COVID-19 is expected to have a negative impact on the infrastructure building market. Not only will social distancing rules make it more time-consuming to accomplish the necessary updates, but the demand for these resources is expected to diminish due to decreased traffic flow.
What Needs to Be Done
There’s a lack of funding to kickstart these projects, particularly with the state governments. Given the impact of policy directives and budget constraints, this means that infrastructure in capital cities and regional areas need to be supported by the private sector. This has been acknowledged by every level of government, and it applies to both the economic and social infrastructure backlog.
This means prioritising an environment where risks can be managed, frameworks can be established, and professionals can work together for the greater good.
There also needs to be more community involvement to inspire urgency within neighborhoods. After all, a crumbling bridge is a safety hazard- one that deserves attention. We need to put maintenance at the forefront of our agendas — it’s at least as important as additional infrastructure (if not more important).
Finally, educating people on the acceptable standards for infrastructure can help everyone understand that this is a public issue that affects us all. The State of the Assets Report in late 2018 by the Australian Local Government Association showed that the cost of infrastructure maintenance will exceed $30B. But this cost has likely grown since then to meet productivity and safety requirements, and they will undoubtedly continue to grow. Maintaining our country’s infrastructure must not be viewed as of secondary importance, as it will be well worth the cost.
Risks of Leaving the Backlog Unaddressed
Even though infrastructure maintenance spending has increased since 2005, the proportion of infrastructure in poor condition has not diminished. As time passes, more civil engineering structures will continue to succumb to the passage time, even as more improvements are made.
If the backlog continues to be ignored or pushed aside, the biggest risk is the safety of everyday citizens. At the very least, Australian infrastructure projects to keep up with the growing number of people. In 2017, the Australian population grew by 1.6%, and future projections continue to show upward trends.
There’s also an impact on the quality of life. A backed-up sewage system is not only dangerous, it also an inconvenience. An unaddressed backlog can lead to everything from a loss of productivity to unnecessary accidents.
Where Antoun Steps In
Antoun is the leader in mission-critical infrastructure solutions for one reason: we make your schedule and budget our biggest priorities. We support infrastructure owners and operators to increase the lifespan of critical infrastructure by offering innovative maintenance solutions that help address four key infrastructure problems:
- Saving time
Our approach to infrastructure maintenance re-defines the possible timelines for completion of projects. We’ve achieved a 100% on-time and on-budget record for expedient pavement projects to the delight of our many clients.
We’ve created a 6-step concrete delivery process, known as our E6 methodology. By minimizing disruption and maximizing efficiency, our methodology makes it possible to restore and maintain infrastructure without closing operations for extended periods of time.
- Proactively addressing changing usage requirements
Our technologies stand between infrastructure deterioration and the repercussions of decades of the de-prioritisation of ongoing maintenance.
- Utilising New Technology
What has worked in the past is no longer the best way to tackle an issue, and new solutions, like Antoun’s innovation in the area of rapid set concrete exists to complete projects in ways that are stronger, faster and cheaper than ever before.
- Modernising Civil engineering
Despite the changing nature of infrastructure, the solutions offered by regular civil engineering are not currently keeping up with the requirement of clients, or the need of the infrastructure itself.
We understand that infrastructure maintenance is a huge commitment. However, maintenance also makes it possible to use our roads, bridges, parks, and sewage systems the way they were meant to be used. There is no short-cut here.