Back in 1987, when the issue of renewing ageing infrastructure was first recognised as important enough by the South Australian Parliament for Asset Management to have its own Cabinet Sub-Committee, there was a lot of enthusiasm amongst the utilities and infrastructure agencies involved. However, with an eye on their budgets, each agency emphasized the immediate need for funds and, to avoid commitment, also emphasized the long term nature of asset management outcomes. The message that came across was that they needed to invest a lot of money now for unknown (but assuredly great!) benefits at some unspecified later date.
I felt that this was very much like saying “I am going to punch you in the stomach now and it will greatly hurt, but when the pain subsides (and I don’t know when that will be), I guarantee you will feel absolutely ecstatic!”
I could not see how this could possibly be a winning strategy, and of course it wasn’t. It was, however, the message that almost all infrastructure agencies across the country were to give in those early years. With pretty much the same results. I had suggested we frame our approach around the changed management and governance requirements that all were now facing but my agency colleagues said this was too difficult. They were right, it was. Yet somehow that is what we needed to do. Actually, what they meant was that it would take too long! They wanted to get their demands in straight away.