Unearthing Potential: Revolutionising Australia’s Infrastructure Through Centralised Geological and Geotechnical Data Management

Dr David Och

Australia’s increasing infrastructure development demands a comprehensive grasp of its intricate underground landscape. This understanding is pivotal as space competition heightens for future expansion. Despite substantial annual investments in ground investigations, often involving intrusive testing, geotechnical data is primarily stored in outdated formats, resulting in data loss or duplication. While some preservation efforts exist, public access to the information remains limited. This Churchill Fellowship-based study underscores the feasibility of a more sustainable approach. Successful models from the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, and New Zealand showcase effective central repositories for geological data. The lack of a comparable requirement in Australia hinders efficient data utilisation, leading to extended project timelines and increased costs for both the government and taxpayers. Through the adoption of similar centralisation strategies and contractual obligations, government agencies and private firms can integrate geological data, promoting informed decision-making and cost reduction. The study accentuates the economic viability of these repositories, demonstrating their cost-effectiveness and potential to encourage cross-sector collaboration. Drawing insights from successful international examples, the study offers valuable guidance for Australian government bodies to establish centralised geological and geotechnical databases. The accessibility and cost-efficiency of these systems can stimulate cooperation across sectors, contributing to the sustainable development of future cities. It is recommended that Australia learns from these international triumphs and develops a well-structured centralised geological and geotechnical database to bolster its economic growth and urban development.

About the speaker

Photo of David Och

Dr David Och Technical Director – Geology (Tunnels), WSP

David has a PhD in geology on the study of a complex structural, tectonic and metamorphic terrane at Port Macquarie NSW Australia. David is the Technical Director – Geology  (Tunnels) for WSP in Australia and leads the NSW Tunnels Group. His expertise in tunnelling and engineering geology has led to key lead and advisory roles on major transportation projects. In recent time David’s roles include geotechnical lead for Sydney Metro City & SW  and West Projects and geological lead on the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link project. He worked on many road projects where he was involved with stabilisation design of many large cuttings and areas of mine subsidence (Hunter Expressway), but also managed construction phase of the Coopernook to Herons Creek Pacific Highway upgrade that had complex areas of soft ground and large cuttings in granite in close proximity to a major northern rail corridor. David, a Churchill Fellow has just completed a study on geotechnical databases at geological surveys including the BGS, TNO (Netherlands) Swisstopo and GEUS (Denmark). This work was published as a report through Winston Churchill Trust and a recent paper in Springer. David is also a Associate Professor at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the UNSW, and supervises student in Honours degrees at Sydney University and Adelaide University, and lectures in Landscape design at University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He has a long standing collaboration with many local and international universities on Faulting in Sydney and his earlier work in Port Macquarie (involving geochronology and geoethical issues).

Geologist David Och shows rock core samples to North West Rail Link project director Rod Staples, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance and NSW Premier Mike Baird.

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