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Can efficiencies be made in infrastructure projects?

By Greg Bell

Investing in infrastructure has widespread benefits for local economies. Not only does it create jobs and opportunities, but it also improves the attractiveness of leasing commercial property as businesses see the benefits of being in up and coming areas.

A recent report has suggested a number of changes to the way in which infrastructure projects are undertaken throughout Australia. It indicates as much as $60billion of savings could be made, simply by making resource and infrastructure projects more efficient.

Compiled by the Agilience for the Australian Constructors Association (ACA), the report highlighted that there's still massive potential in the sector, even in light of recent cutbacks.

Investing in major infrastructure

Earlier this month, the federal opposition unveiled plans to unlock the potential for capital investment in key infrastructure projects. The move was welcomed by the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), which suggested it would give way to further discussion.

Leader of the opposition Bill Shorten indicated that making private sector finance more readily available would play a part in creating a stronger pipeline of investment. Plans have also been put forward for Infrastructure Australia to retain its role, but it would be backed by a $10billion financing facility to help give rise to new projects.

The hope is that not only will major infrastructure be given a boost, but there will also be improved access to jobs. This in turn should enhance Australia's productivity and competitiveness, with positive knock-on effects for leasing commercial property on the Gold Coast.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the emphasis on productivity is "welcome", as it helps to ensure infrastructure projects are thoroughly assessed and transparent. It will now be necessary for the government to consult with interested parties to make sure any potential changes to policy are thought through before being introduced.

Mega-projects need a rethink

ACA analysts suggested that it's the management of mega-projects that need the greatest amount of change. If this happens, cost savings could be significant and Australia would be able to reap the benefits of some much needed change.

Vice-president of the ACA John Flecker noted: "The report finds that projects are becoming increasingly larger, longer and more complex, but have correspondingly low success rates with traditional project management models failing to deliver a project's potential."

In order for these developments to be successful, a different perspective must be adopted. This means engaging more effectively with stakeholders, while making sure project leadership is as effective as it can be.

Mr Flecker emphasised that projects need to be set up for success right from the very beginning. This involves having the right policies and procedures in place to make this happen, while ensuring an environment of learning is promoted so that everyone can work together towards a successful outcome.

Supporting infrastructure development

It's not just the duty of the federal government and the opposition to highlight the importance of infrastructure projects, as state-level action is just as important. The Ai Group noted that support is needed at all levels if Australia is going to get back onto its feet following the slowdown in mining activity.

Unless decisive action is taken now, then the country runs the risk of seeing its economy suffer. With so much potential to make the most of, it would be a shame if infrastructure wasn't given the billing it deserves.

For the time being at least, the country will have to maximise the opportunities presented by sectors that are already thriving. Property in both the residential and commercial sectors is included in this and could give investors a focal point until the potential of infrastructure is fully realised.

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