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Bega Valley Shire CouncilBega Valley Shire Council

Asset Management Plan - Transport

Bega Valley Shire Council's Asset Mangement Plan, Transport.What is this plan about?

This asset management plan covers the infrastructure assets that serve the Bega Valley Shire Council community’s transport needs.  These assets include roads, bridges, drainage, footpaths, cycleways, roadside furniture, kerb and gutter, civic carparks and bus shelters throughout the community area that enable people to travel safely and in comfort throughout the Bega Valley Shire.

What is an Asset Management Plan?

Asset management planning is a comprehensive process to ensure delivery of services from infrastructure is provided in a financially sustainable manner.

An asset management plan details information about infrastructure assets including actions required to provide an agreed level of service in the most cost effective manner.   The plan defines the services to be provided, how the services are provided and what funds are required to provide the services.

Why is there a funding shortfall?

We forward plan using today’s knowledge and technologies, financially amortising what today’s solutions would cost in ten years’ time based on what we own now. The time delay between what we think we’d be required to spend to keep the status quo and inevitable future changes, however they’re driven are more often than not completely different.

Not only are our forward expenditures morphing almost constantly, there is no guarantee they’ll be linear or static; in fact, history shows us they’re often exponential (e.g. high mass limit vehicles versus bridge design).

Other disruptive and cumulative changes to our transport system cost profile are as follows:

  • A considerable amount of the Council’s transport network was constructed by developers and from government grants, often provided and accepted without consideration of ongoing operations, maintenance and replacement needs.
  • At the time of much of our infrastructure construction, the option of not providing an increase in service level was actually more costly than continuing to maintain the lower level asset. But in doing so, the requirement to provide funds to address renewal was often overlooked. The historic exception, not only in BVSC but Local Government in general, involved assets with specialist staff maintaining them, such as bridges, water and sewer assets and aviation.

This problem was recognised by industry and government and subsequently in 2009 State Government introduced various versions of integrated planning and reporting as amendments to individual LG Acts.

  •  In many cases, the risk profile of (then existing) lower cost assets, particularly in areas subject to flooding, outweighed the future financial renewal considerations, as saving someone’s life would always be the prime driver.
  • Often, by the time renewals are required, which could take over a  decade or even longer, the asset could be redundant and either been upgraded by an external party, due to development application requirements, or upgraded by Council due to a change in demographic and socio economic circumstances. This relieves pressure on renewals, but then, if internally funded, adds to the capital spend requirements (e.g. Albert Terrace and Imlay Street, Eden).
  • People’s expectations of what was once considered satisfactory change over time.
  • Technical specifications, particularly related to bridges, road widths, guardrail and signage requirements, are continually evolving but rarely lowering unit rate costs (e.g. chain wire versus guardrail versus wire rope).
  • The number of higher mass vehicles has continued to increase, despite the fact that each vehicle can safely carry a greater load there is still more of them. This won’t change; in fact, their number is likely to keep increasing.
  • The reduction of nation building grants that were prevalent during Australia post WWII up to recent times has started to affect Local Government as a whole. Future grant opportunities, once the corporatised assets have been sold off by various State Government will be limited to tax income. As with all taxes, there is much competition for the tax dollar.
  • Cost shifting and changing legislative frameworks, has had a huge impact on transport infrastructure, as has each precedent of law. This has been compounded by rate pegging. The process of spending what is required to fix-before-failure has become problematic.

Many of these assets are approaching the later years of their life and now require replacement, services from the assets are decreasing and maintenance costs are increasing. 

In summary, our present funding levels are insufficient to continue to provide existing services at current levels in the medium term.

What options do we have?

Resolving the funding shortfall involves several steps:

  1. Asking ourselves 'fresh' questions, and viewing outcomes versus the 'physical'. Often society concentrates on the short fix by improving efficiencies but neglects to look at overall effectiveness long-term. A classic example in road infrastructure management relates to flood resilience.

    For every dollar spent on making our infrastructure resilient to the effects of flooding, we save ten dollars on reactive emergency repairs. Yet our Nation's recovery protocols are stringently set up through the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) to do exactly the opposite - time and time again.
  2. Implementation of real-time data analysis of our programs and networks (including maintenance) to ensure responsive decision making can adapt to changing circumstances. This will ensure that field staff will be confident that their actions are linked to the long-term objectives and will provide the best value for money results.

    In introducing, what has become known in BVSC, as the Network Operation Centre, or NOC, it will create economies of scale in mobilisation and demobilisation. It will also allow multi-level and multi-facetted asset questions to be more easily understood so that grey areas, duplication and overlooking of requirements is minimised. It will provide an ability to determine customer service levels based on science and engineering not subjectively.
  3. Improving asset knowledge so that data accurately records the asset inventory, how assets are performing and when assets are not able to provide the required service levels or expectations.
  4. Improving our efficiency in operating, maintaining, renewing and replacing existing assets to optimise life cycle costs; by incorporating divergent and convergent technologies.
  5. Understanding our life-cycle costs better, using the NOC through data-mining (layering).
  6. Identifying and managing risks associated with providing and note providing services from infrastructure.
  7. Making trade-offs between service levels and costs to ensure that the community receives the best return from infrastructure, by not necessarily defaulting to the ‘high end’ option but still providing a quality outcome.
  8. Identifying assets surplus to needs for disposal to make saving in future operations and maintenance costs.
  9. Consulting with the community to ensure that all transport services and costs meet community needs and are affordable.
  10. Developing partnership with other bodies, where available to provide services.
  11. Developing partnerships with the community who may be able to either provide or enhance service provision.
  12. Continue to seek funding from governments and other bodies to better reflect a ‘whole of government’ approach to infrastructure services provisions.
  13. Ensure that we maintain our relevance by keeping. up-to-date with contemporary technologies.  The amount of disruptive technology about to enter the general transport sphere related to autonomous vehicles and real-time data gathering is almost upon us and will inevitably change our operations. (E.g. driverless cars, drones for data gathering and the internet of everything).
  14. Improve our communication techniques with all of our partners and stakeholders. This will include provision of access to data such as the ‘Road Portal’ on our intranet/internet so that it provides a self-service.
  15. Link all of our plant/machinery and devices, via GPS enabled software and hardware, to our Network Operations Centre (in real time) so that our asset condition is constantly updated. This will greatly assist defend us from risk. particularly public liability.
  16. Greatly enhance our research and development functionality within the Strategy and Asset Section, particularly related, but not limited to, our unsealed road network. bridges and stormwater.
  17. Develop a flood damage mitigation program such that the current reactive and costly nature of emergency repairs is greatly reduced.
  18. Continue to undertake the rest of our flood studies. We still have a number of catchments without adequate hydraulic information.

What happens if we don’t manage the shortfall?

There is greater service, financial, economic, environmental, social and legal risks to the community if action is not taken now to manage the shortfall.  It is likely that external funding policies will change in the future such that the community will be faced with self-funding the difference into the future or reducing services to match available resources.  Less discretionary funding is likely to available later as funding is consumed in addressing deficiencies now. 

If the shortfall is not managed, it is likely that we will have to reduce service levels in some areas, unless enough new management protocols are implemented; sources of revenue are found; contemporary technologies and work practices adopted; and synergies harvested.

For un-sealed roads, the service level reduction may include grading twice a year instead of three times.  For bridges, a service level reduction may include imposition of load limits or closure.

For sealed roads, this could mean reverting some sealed roads back to unsealed roads.

It may mean that there would be a reduction in roadside vegetation control, guardrail renewal and other 'peripheral' type activities.

It may mean inspecting assets less frequently, if at all.

The risk if the aforementioned scenarios are forced upon us will be that although one area may have costs reduced, the risk to our community will escalate. This usually equates to legal costs rising.

What else can we do?

We have disproportionally and continually spent both rate income and disaster recovery grants on a very small percentage of our road infrastructure.

For example, the unsealed road network doesn't cope well at all during extreme weather events. If we were to fund areas that were disproportionately problematic by making them much more weather resilient, over the medium and long term we’d be far better off.

In addition to financial and economic benefits community safety would improve and disruption reduced.

It should be noted that the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements funding criteria is becoming much, much more critical of councils claiming damage in the same area time and time again. All areas subject to claims have now been geospatially mapped by Public Works.

In the future councils will be asked to prove whether they have maintained assets (drainage in particular) to reduce impacts if there was an event. In the situation where gravel re-sheeting is scheduled for once in ten years, and five years has passed, councils will only receive 50% of the cost to reinstate after an emergency event.

Additionally .there has been a step-shift in policy related to what is actually claimable.

These changes will severely affect the percentage of claims reimbursed in the future.

Council's financial capacity is already extended in maintaining the status quo of our existing transport  assets. But unless we address the extreme weather and {resilience) issues, the cascading effect will mean they'll be even less funds available, as they'll be a substantial shortfall in recovery money.

The answer lies in two directions: advocating to government to introduce flood resilience funding: or levying local infrastructure users through a Special Rate Variation (for the provision of flood resilient infrastructure).

What can you do?

We will be pleased to consider your thoughts on the issues raised in this asset management plan and suggestions on how we may change or reduce its transport mix of services to ensure that the appropriate level of service can be provided to the community within available funding.

 

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