Planning and design for resilience is a key component in mitigating the damage of major hazards, including naturally occurring events, the effects of climate change, geopolitics, technological disruption and cyberattacks.
When resilience is part of the planning process it not only makes systems and infrastructure less likely to fail under stress but also supports them to recover much faster.
The climate is changing, and Australia is already experiencing more frequent and severe storms, floods and bushfires. While limiting climate change is essential, we also need to ensure appropriate planning to mitigate the worst effects on Australian infrastructure, services and communities.
The relevance of resilience has been underlined in numerous reports, notably the recently released 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020, the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy, the Sustainable Development Goals (Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), and the United Nations Environment Programme Adaptation Gap Report 2021. These reports all link sustainability, productivity, safety and quality of life to resilience.
Hazardous events can be random in nature. They can also occur in the physical and digital environments. Therefore, resilience is most sensibly addressed by methods which consider the probability of their occurrence. Planning for resilience is built on four pillars – economic, environmental, social and cultural – and their interdependent vulnerabilities. As part of the overarching goal of establishing sustainable infrastructure systems, a more comprehensive approach to infrastructure system adaptation is necessary. The best chances for doing so are generally during the planning and design stages of infrastructure systems.
The Academy considers evidence-based tools, such as probabilistic risk assessments, which considers these four pillars, to be fundamental for building resilience into Australia’s future planning processes. Probabilistic risk assessment supports infrastructure owners, designers and operators to make informed decisions regarding the likely impact and mitigation strategy for uncertain events, across the lifetime of infrastructure. The Academy supports continuous improvement in risk assessment modelling in line with the evolution of relevant technologies and evidence-based tools.