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Is your social licence about to expire?

Australian governments planning major public infrastructure projects have long understood the importance of earning a social license for a project as a way of improving overall project outcomes and reducing community and stakeholder objections on big developments.

Susette Dixon Principal and NSW Branch Manager

by Susette Dixon

Principal and NSW Branch Manager, Sydney

24 August 2017
Infrastructure project

As a result, community and stakeholder engagement, environmental management, and industry development are playing an increasingly significant role in how these projects are delivered.

Weaving environmental, community and stakeholder, and social considerations into asset delivery adds a greater level of complexity and uncertainty than most could have imagined 20 years ago. It also increases the cost of asset delivery, at a time when the industry is under increasing pressure to demonstrate cost efficiency and value for money.

More than a few dollars at stake

With a $73 billion pipeline of infrastructure (over four years) to be spent on infrastructure in NSW (and Victoria’s recently announced 30-year strategy identifying projects estimated to be valued at $100 billion), finding meaningful ways to earn a social license is crucial to delivering a successful project outcome.

The challenge is to find a way to “give back.” This is especially important where communities are heavily affected by the works, but stand to gain little from them once they are complete. This is a common occurrence on large infrastructure projects, which have an impact on local footprint, but are built for the benefit of a wider Sydney community. Recognizing this, large projects which take years to deliver are looking for better ways to get and keep the local communities they impact on side. 

Inspiring the next generation of project delivery professionals

Involving local communities and setting up initiatives such as local school education programs in the design and construction delivery phase of a project has huge potential benefit in educating stakeholders, and importantly, the opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers and project delivery professionals.

Involving local communities and setting up initiatives has huge potential to inspire the next generation of engineers and project delivery professionals.

Smart project delivery teams understand this is now an opportunity which should and can be managed as part of the capital investment, and indeed, can play an important role in the future professional development of the construction and engineering industry. From a government and industry perspective, this is also a win-win, addressing employment and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training goals in tandem with key infrastructure funding.

Developing local skills and training programs is becoming a standard feature of most of our major transport or other infrastructure projects.  In fact, all recent major public and private sector projects in NSW, including Barangaroo, Sydney Metro North West, and South transport projects, involve significant and ongoing local employment and school education programs.   

NSW has now set firm targets for training on all major projects to develop existing workers and significantly increase the representation of young people, women, and indigenous people in the construction industry.

Without a longevity strategy, your social license could soon expire

This focus on creating a positive impact in the community – and not just a new green space or cycle path – has upped the ante for governments at all levels. Have you checked if your social license is up to date?        

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