Engineers Australia

A Smart Geotechnical and Geological Approach for Future Building and Transport Infrastructure Projects

David Och

November 12, 2021Sydney Symposium 2021

There is a rapid and unprecedented scale of infrastructure planning and development across the Sydney region. A SMART approach that captures historical ground investigation and regional geological data is required to support early transport planning by Government. This will allow the refinement of geological and geotechnical knowledge gaps that will be augmented with additional investigation once these corridors are further assessed as the design develops. To allow a SMART approach in infrastructure planning and development, Government Departments and potentially the private sector could integrate their internal geological and geotechnical data as part of a centralised state-wide data collection centre. This will require Government to legislate a registry system for factual geotechnical data for all Departments and Authorities. Consideration would also need to be given to how to release this information from the private sector many of whom would claim this was their intellectual property despite typically being derived (and paid services for) from Government projects.

Consideration should be given to a two-stage process so as not to derail the implementation due to potential delays with the private sector:

(i) Combine and integrate geological and geotechnical data from historical Government projects including those delivered under corporatised government entities.

(ii) Integration of factual data obtained from the private sector.

Any data compiled under both (i) and (ii) will need to be relied upon without any impact or recourse to the originators. This has been key to the success of similar data sharing mechanisms in the United Kingdom (British Geological Survey) and the Netherlands (Dutch Geological Survey).

A way of making this work successfully in New South Wales, following successful international models such the UK and Netherlands, is to have government allow contracts or documentation to have historic data relied upon. The State will achieve better value for money by way of having significantly more geological and geotechnical data as part of Environmental Impacts Statements to inform approvals and stakeholders as well as for its Request for Proposals (RFP). In all cases with more reliable information a better outcome will be achieved by way of increased certainty and avoiding approval delays, possible injunctions, as well as more informed Request for Tenders (RFTs).

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