State infrastructure post-COVID-19: what are WA's changing infrastructure needs?

By Jodi Reinmuth, Mark McAleer, Eve Lynch, Tristan Iredell , Gerard Woods

IWA seeks feedback on the State Infrastructure Strategy Discussion Paper 3 min read

In June 2020, Infrastructure WA (IWA) released its State Infrastructure Strategy Discussion Paper (Discussion Paper). It outlines how IWA intends to develop a 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy (State Infrastructure Strategy). The Discussion Paper can be found here.

IWA was established in July 2019. It is tasked with preparing a 20-year strategy, refreshed every five years. The strategy will address social, economic and environmental infrastructure sectors (and cross-sector issues). This is the first statewide, 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy of its kind. The strategy will primarily focus on infrastructure funded by the WA Government (in whole or in part), but it will also consider other infrastructure that meets a community service, such as airports and telecommunications.

Objectives and sectors

The Discussion Paper has been released with a view to obtaining feedback on developing the State Infrastructure Strategy. The Discussion Paper sets out 10 draft objectives that IWA proposes to focus on when developing the State Infrastructure Strategy. These are:

  • support a strong, resilient and diversified economy;
  • maximise regional strengths to unlock strategic opportunities for Western Australia;
  • enhance infrastructure delivery and develop skills for the future;
  • support access to social services and improve Aboriginal wellbeing;
  • enhance cross-government coordination and planning;
  • address climate change and increase resilience;
  • support population growth and change.
  • maximise liveability and cultural strategic opportunities for our community;
  • embrace technology, data and digital connectivity; and
  • get the most from our infrastructure and improve maintenance.

The paper also looks at the challenges, opportunities and issues for the following key sectors:

  • Transport
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Digital connectivity and telecommunications
  • Education and training
  • Social and affordable housing
  • Health
  • Justice and public safety
  • Arts, culture, sport and recreation

Impact of COVID-19 on development of the State Infrastructure Strategy

The release of the Discussion Paper is, in some ways, timely. It recognises the WA Government's recovery plan from the pandemic and the impacts on any State Infrastructure Strategy. In this way, IWA intends the State Infrastructure Strategy to incorporate the implications of the pandemic on infrastructure during the recovery phase and into the medium and long-term.

Questions raised

Whether government, developer, builder or other participant in the infrastructure space, the Discussion Paper provides an opportunity to provide input to help shape the next 20 years of infrastructure delivery. This is especially relevant now as COVID-19 and its effects may have set our infrastructure needs on a different trajectory, eg:

  • Regional infrastructure: Could remote working result in greater populations in regional areas, increasing pressure on existing infrastructure?
  • Health sector: Could greater reliance on technologies such as telehealth continue going forward?
  • Private sector: Is there an increased role of the private sector in funding and delivering public infrastructure?
  • Digital infrastructure: Could online learning and remote working impact digital connectivity and telecommunications?            

Next steps

IWA is seeking feedback on the Discussion Paper by Friday, 21 August 2020. It also proposes engagement and consultation with stakeholder groups over the next 18 months. IWA anticipates releasing a draft State Infrastructure Strategy by mid-2021, with a final version before the Premier by the end of 2021.

Allens will follow the State Infrastructure Strategy closely and provide further updates and developments. We would be delighted to hear from you and to discuss your perspective.