THE impacts of Australia's ongoing $272 billion infrastructure roll-out will be examined in a research project from one of the country's leading universities, which is calling on feedback from rural communities.
Australian National University (ANU) is compiling a study which aims to explore how the infrastructure delivery is affecting ordinary citizens and how their experiences can be improved.
The Australian Perspectives on Infrastructure research project will examine the impacts of a variety of projects such as pipelines and roads across the country.
ANU's Institute for Infrastructure in Society (I2S) researchers are calling on locals in the Moree, Newcastle, Shepparton, Geelong, Toowoomba and Gold Coast areas to share their experiences with recent infrastructure projects.
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ANU I2S research director, Professor Sara Bice, said major projects of interest to researchers included Inland Rail, pipelines and renewable energy facilities such as solar farms.
"We've never seen a more intensive period of development than the current $272 billion pipeline," Professor Bice said.
"There's a huge amount of activity from local councils, state governments and the federal government in communities all across Australia.
"We're really interested to know about the experiences of the local community members who are shouldering the burden of this nation-shaping infrastructure program.
"We have a wide range of local government areas we are looking at and what we are aiming to do is to get a sense of what experiences local communities are having with infrastructure projects."
The research will examine all aspects of infrastructure projects such as impact on the economy, employment levels and lifestyle.
"It's quite an exciting time for infrastructure but it also means for community members, including those in and out of lockdown, the usual disruptions caused by infrastructure projects may be more prevalent than usual," Professor Bice said.
"Therefore, what we really want to do here is to give people a chance to have a say about what is happening in their area.
"Whether they feel the infrastructure is being carried out in a respectful way to their community's values and whether they feel they have a community voice when projects are chosen, so those are the kinds of things we are wanting to hear about."
The call for feedback comes after ANU conducted a major public baseline survey of about 4000 people recently and the latest call for information is designed to take that information and hone in on areas with extensive infrastructure projects.
"Right up and down the east coast community members are experiencing intensive project delivery and our role as researchers is to hopefully give community members a voice to share their experiences," Professor Bice said.
"We really interested to hear people's ideas about if they feel infrastructure does have a role to play in post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and what that role is, as well as peoples opinions on what infrastructure matters to them.
"We know from our research that a positive community-project relationship can improve social, environmental and economic outcomes from major projects."
Professor Bice said improving the relationship between proponents of infrastructure projects and local communities was also key.
"We work directly with industry, our major partners include the Queensland Government, the Victorian Government, Lendlease and Transurban, so any information the community provides us won't just disappear into some academic journal article, it will be delivered back to the organisations responsible for infrastructure investment and delivery," she said.
"Our research has also shown that when community-project relationships sour, it can put huge pressure on communities and project teams.
"This latest piece of research will help us to advise regulators, policymakers and proponents - based on the lived experience of local people - on how to protect communities and meet their needs while delivering the infrastructure we all need."
Interested community members can register to be part of the survey at: voconiqlocalvoices.com/infrastructure/
The ANU I2S anticipates releasing the findings of the survey in the final quarter of 2022. Participants may request a copy of the research findings.
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