ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Infrastructure


Sustainable infrastructure is essential in maintaining quality of life while minimising the impact of human settlement on the environment. Much of the Territory's infrastructure was planned and developed under the Commonwealth Government; since self-government in 1989, the ACT Government undertakes maintenance.

Reflecting good management planning and resource management, the Territory's wastewater and water and energy supply infrastructure are generally in good condition and provide good service levels, when compared with other Australian jurisdictions. By contrast, while new improved asset management systems are in place for the Territory's road assets, maintenance continues to be a challenge (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a).

Infrastructure for water and energy services includes limited assets that are considered environmentally sustainable alternatives; however, the Territory's transport infrastructure facilitates private motor vehicle use, a key element in reduced sustainability.

Deferring maintenance for any infrastructure asset generally incurs a higher cost burden on future generations and on the environment, increasing in direct relation to the time delay in achieving adequate maintenance levels. The results of this can be seen in the current reporting period in the condition of the ACT schools infrastructure. However, it is noted that the ACT Government responded to this by significantly increasing both maintenance and capital funding for schools in the 2006–07 Budget.1

What the results tell us about the ACT

Road and traffic assets

The Roads ACT Asset Management Plan 2004–07 released in November 2006 is the current tool for planning and maintaining all Roads ACT's assets. The plan comprehensively addresses issues of adequate maintenance, capacity to meet demand, and trends and implications for the future, but not the wider issue of achieving sustainability.

The plan makes clear that ACT roads and traffic assets maintenance levels are currently driven by budgetary constraints, not management planning, so that safety works are given priority, followed by failing works that will cease to operate without being fixed. Any residue of funds is then allocated to programmed maintenance works. The plan does not address the issue of whether optimal levels of maintenance need adjustment to address sustainability issues.

A sustainable asset

The ACT road network managed by Roads ACT consists of 2200 lane kilometres of territorial roads (rural and urban arterial and distributor roads) and 3700 lane kilometres of municipal roads (predominantly collector and local access roads used to access properties). The total road network includes 861 bridges, 212 traffic intersection signals and more than 65,000 streetlights (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a).

Figures supplied in March 2007 for community paths (1880 kilometres) and cycle paths (353 kilometres) make it difficult to compare the 2004 figures (220 kilometres of community paths and 505 kilometres of cycle paths), suggesting a vast expansion of the former and a contraction of the latter (ACT CSE 2003; TAMS 31 March 2007). As well as cycle paths, on-road cycle lanes should be included; these would have increased in the current reporting period under the Woden–Dickson project, a new government initiative, but figures were not available.

In November 2006 the average age of territorial roads was around 28 years (70% more than 10 years old and 54% more than 15 years) a position apparently different from 2000 and 2004, when 75% of territorial roads were reported to have been built before 1980. If the comparative data were expressed in standard terms of road age and included figures for new construction, this comparison would be more helpful in assessing, rather than accepting, maintenance needs. With municipal roads the ageing position is unchanged from the end of the previous reporting period; some 40% of the municipal road network is older than 10 years, and the surfaces of more than 60% are older than 10 years, with 33% older than 15 years. In the previous reporting period a record of driveways had not been compiled; at March 2007 there were more than 99,000 driveways (Roads ACT 2006; TAMS 31 March 2007).

Road pavements are designed for 20 to 25 years' use, with additional maintenance extending this life expectancy. Data from Roads ACT shows that, for a high proportion of both territorial and municipal roads, maintenance levels are inadequate for the designed life expectancy thus reduce rather than optimise the life term. A 2001 sample survey of roughness, rutting and particularly deflection cited in the Roads Plan 2006 rated the condition of 31% of territorial roads and 34% of municipal roads as poor or very poor. The survey has not been updated.

The Asset Management Plan recommends a 7–10% rate for resurfacing the municipal network and an 8–10% rate for the more heavily trafficked territorial roads. As the achieved rate is only 2% for municipal roads and 3% for territorial roads, this suggests a worsening of the shortfall since the last reporting period, when rates of 5% of municipal roads and 6% of territorial roads were achieved (Roads ACT 2006; ACT CSE 2003).

The Roads Plan 2006 argues this 'maintenance shortfall would leave the government exposed on its inability to maintain the assets at acceptable levels as part of its duty of care obligations' (p.42). However, the broader picture of governments' duty of care now includes the obligation for achieving progress towards environmental sustainability. Although the Roads Plan 2006 addresses the Territory's Sustainable Transport Plan, there appears to be confusion about the goal of sustainability. It emphasises for instance as a key principle that the Sustainable Transport Plan 'ensures the integration between transport and land use planning for Canberra' (p.29) and confuses the practice of sustaining a specific asset (that is, maintaining it adequately) and the planning and progressing of strategies for sustaining the whole environment.

The plan thus focuses on the need for higher levels of funding for higher levels of maintenance, while environmentally sustainable options are limited to increasing the amount of cycle and footpaths. This is in line with the government's strategy to increase walking from 4.1% (in 2001) to 7% (year not cited) and cycling from 2.3% (in 2001) to 7% (by 2026), but the plan does not include any measure of increase achieved in the six years from 2001 (p.152). Similarly, while the Sustainable Transport Plan's goal that 'Canberra will achieve a transport system that has lower overall costs, particularly greenhouse gas emissions, lower air pollution, reduced accidents and lower health costs and provide more transport options for the community' is quoted (p.174), it makes no assessment of the contribution of roads infrastructure towards achieving this goal.

Planning for a more environmentally sustainable transport infrastructure in the ACT should question rather than accept premises like a constant increase in levels of road use and private motor vehicle use. Sustainable options require broader thinking about alternatives and about sustainability performance measures, such as a commuting-time expressed geographically, and transportation reported on a person per kilometre calculus – Canberra's T2 lane system is an example of a practical application of the latter (see Transport indicator).

Water supply and wastewater assets

The Territory's water infrastructure needs a similarly broader approach. While the existing asset for supply and disposal is well managed, traditional water use patters, particularly given the drought and climate change forecasts, are not sustainable. While education of households is essential, so is the example of government departments and businesses providing the example of choosing sustainable options and developing their efficiency, availability and affordability.

Water supply and wastewater disposal infrastructure in the ACT comprises three separate systems owned by two organisations. The storm water system is managed by Roads ACT and the water supply and sewerage systems are owned and operated by ACTEW Corporation Limited, wholly owned by the ACT Government. The Territory's water supply and wastewater infrastructure is generally in good condition and provides good service levels compared with other Australian jurisdictions (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a).

The Territory's water supply comes from two main sources, namely:

  • the Cotter River within Namadgi National Park, stored in the Corin, Bendora and Cotter dams with treatment at the Mount Stromlo Water Treatment Plant
  • the Queanbeyan River in New South Wales, stored in the Googong Dam with treatment at the Googong Water Treatment Plant.

Usually most of the supply is drawn from the Cotter system via Bendora Dam, with Googong drawn on to meet summer peaks in demand and during extensive dry periods.

Most of the ACT water catchment, including the catchments for Corin and Bendora dams, is zoned as a national park and thus protected from intense recreational and all agricultural activities that potentially affect water quality. Addressing management issues associated with areas formerly planted with pines has involved a shift in the land management practices. These will be guided by the Clean Water, Healthy Landscapes: Lower Cotter Catchment Draft Strategic Management Plan.2 This plan focuses on a return to native forest in the lower Cotter. Nine catchment recovery projects are currently in place, with a budget of $1.2 million, involving online monitoring, hydrological and hydrodynamic modelling, vegetation recovery and research with the Australian National University to gauge the long-term effects of the 2003 bushfire on the catchment.

Supply shortage, storage and demand solutions

Sustainability of the ACT water supply is the most critical factor to emerge in the current reporting period, requiring effective demand management initiatives; introduction and uptake of household measures such as water tanks and facilities for greywater reuse; design and provision of treated effluent re-use facilities and an increase in water supply infrastructure. The severe drought has raised both awareness of the risks of unsustainable industrial and domestic practices, and expectations of effective government initiatives. While government has reported satisfactory compliance with its water restriction regulations, ongoing education and awareness initiatives are essential, as is development of sustainable choices in use and reuse of the Territory's water resources.

Among drought contingency measures introduced during the reporting period was re-commissioning the Cotter Dam and Pump Station as a regular part of the water supply, and a new pumping station constructed on the Murrumbidgee River near the Cotter Pump Station to allow up to 50 ML per day to be pumped from the Murrumbidgee to the Mount Stromlo Water Treatment Plant. Supply from the latter is only for emergency conditions, such as the current extreme drought, as the water comes from catchments both within and outside the ACT that include agricultural and urban land uses and is therefore difficult to manage for water quality. ACT Health imposed strict guidelines on the water that could be extracted. In addition, the Cotter-to-Googong Bulk Transfer scheme was built to transfer water from the higher water-producing Cotter catchment, to the lower yielding Googong catchment with its larger storage (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a; ACTEW).

ACTEW currently manages and operates four storage dams, Corin, Bendora, Googong and Cotter; two water treatment plants; 44 reservoirs; 22 water pump stations and almost 3000 kilometres of water trunk reticulation mains. For the reclaimed water system there are two treatment facilities, one pump station, one reservoir and approximately 15 kilometres of distribution and reticulation mains. The estimated replacement value of these assets at the last valuation date of 30 June 2002 is $2.91 billion. Since then, $128 million of new or enhanced assets have been constructed by or transferred to ACTEW (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a).

While delivery at maximum daily demand continued to be affected by the capacity of the water treatment plants, during the reporting period the major stress was the dramatic decline in stored water due to prolonged drought. The annual amount of water stored dropped from 100.7 GL in 2003–04 to 98.6 in 2005–06, rose to 108.7 in 2005–06 and then fell to only 77.1 GL in 2006–07. Over the same period demand fell only slightly, from 52.2 GL in 2003–04 to 51.1 GL in 2006–07.

Reversing the trend of the last reporting period, capital expenditure on water supply infrastructure decreased, from $35,455 (33% of total asset value) in 2003–04 to $13,987 (14% of total asset value) in 2006–07. Operational expenditure increased substantially, from $32,189 (30% of total asset value) in 2003–04 to $47,730 (48% of total asset value) in 2006–07.

Demand and storage capacity have become more significant to the sustainability of the Territory's water supply as a result, with a steeper fall in demand an immediate necessity, and in the longer term greater storage capacity needed to meet future climate effects and revised population projections. In the last reporting period analysis indicated the ACT would need a new water supply by 2017 to meet demand for a population of about 405,000. This has since been revised due to the continuing drought (the worst on record but considered a possible indication of permanent climate change), the effects of damage to the Cotter catchment in the 2003 bushfire, and a higher population growth rate that moved projection upwards to 500,000 by 2032.

In 2004 the ACT Government released a strategy plan for sustainability to 2050, setting water efficiency targets reducing per capita mains water use by 12% by 2013 and 25% by 2023. The plan also gave ACTEW responsibility for recommending options for new water sources to develop a long-term reliable source of water for the ACT region. ACTEW has since reported on investigations into three options, namely, constructing a new dam near Mount Tennent, south of Tharwa; enlarging the existing Cotter Dam; and transferring water from Tantangara Dam in New South Wales (Environment ACT 2004; ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a).

On 31 March 2006 the government launched a scheme of permanent water conservation measures foreshadowed in Think water, act water, replacing temporary water restriction levels with a permanent low-level water use to achieve the 25% target savings by 2023. The following month the ACT Planning and Land Authority released draft guidelines for water sensitive urban design in Canberra aimed at reducing reliance on town water supply; optimising opportunities for reusing treated effluent, greywater and storm water; and reducing storm water runoff (and associated pollutants) to pre-development levels.

Assessment of all these measures in the next reporting period will be an important indicator of progress towards a more sustainable water supply for the ACT region. Since the end of the reporting period, the ACT Government has adopted the 10 recommendations of the Water Security Taskforce (September 2007) to:

  • enlarge the Cotter Dam by 2011
  • progress the Murrumbidgee–Googong Transfer
  • pursue sourcing water from the Tantangara Dam
  • complete further analyses of a proposed water purification scheme before it further considers this proposal
  • pursue offsets to address additional greenhouse gas emissions associated with operating water security projects
  • continue with demand management programs
  • investigate extending permanent water conservation measures
  • improve metering of water by investigating a pilot smart metering program
  • update the Think water, act water strategy
  • monitor implementation of the water security program.

This commits the government and ACTEW to a significant future investment in infrastructure totalling hundreds of millions of dollars and involves measures that are traditional as well as innovative (such as smart meters) and more sustainable (for example, demand management) (Chief Minister's Department 2007b).

Problems from the past for the future

In common with water utilities in other jurisdictions, ageing of the assets means increasing levels of maintenance and renewal, but a distinct difference in the ACT is that the planned city has a geographic ageing pattern, with infrastructure problems more acute in older suburbs, which like the city itself are approaching their centenaries.

The same vulnerability is, however, apparent in some newer assets, particularly the small sewer mains built in the 'boom days' of the 1970s. These are starting to fail prematurely, due to poor construction standards and intrusion of tree roots, and need an extraordinarily high level of maintenance and replacement.

Another geographic factor is Canberra's expected 1% yearly population growth rate, affecting water supply and sewerage resources both in in-fill and redevelopment areas like Kingston, and in greenfield areas like Gungahlin and Molonglo. The latter require an expanded network and the former replacement and augmentation of network assets. Continuing growth of the city also means necessary augmentation of the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre and either construction of a new water supply dam and associated treatment plant and distribution assets; expansion of the capacity of existing dam/s and their related infrastructure; and/or building new infrastructure to carry water into the ACT.

Planning impacts on sewerage system

Like the water infrastructure, the sustainability of existing sewerage infrastructure is relatively sound, with the weighted average age of most of the assets less than half the expected useful life. ACTEW currently manages and operates 2730 kilometres of sewers, 29 sewage pump stations, the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre, and three smaller sewage treatment plants.

The sewerage system is designed to handle peak conditions when rainwater flows into the sewers that occur rarely, with the pipe network designed to accommodate a one-in-ten-year weather event without risk of overflowing.

By contrast, the sewage treatment plants operate best under steady flow conditions and are not sized to handle the rare peak wet weather flows, making flow attenuation necessary to remove the risk of flow bypasses. At the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre this flow attenuation occurs in the trunk sewers at the inlet to the plant and in the bypass control dam, where by-pass flow is stored for treatment after the peak flows have passed. The capacity of the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre is 109 megalitres per day. During the current reporting period the overall average maximum daily inflow into the plant was lower than for the previous reporting period:

  • 2003–04: 113 ML/day (151.4 in 2000–01)
  • 2004–05: 153 ML/day (190.6 in 2001–02)
  • 2006–07: 91.5 ML/day (116.0 in 2002–03)

Operational expenditure on the sewerage infrastructure declined from $33,100,000 (31% of total asset value) in 2003–04 to $25,821,000 (26% of total asset value) in 2006–07, while capital expenditure increased from $7,319,000 (7% of total asset value) in 2003–04 to $10,695,000 (11% of total asset value) in 2006–07.

Reusing wastewater

The Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre (LMWQCC) is the main wastewater treatment facility for Canberra and the largest inland treatment centre in Australia. Located 1 kilometre upstream from the junction of the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo Rivers, LMWQCC treats more than 90 million litres of Canberra's wastewater each day. The process includes physical, chemical, and biological treatment processes before the water is discharged into the Molonglo River. Some wastewater from the industrial area of Fyshwick and adjacent suburbs is partially treated at the Fyshwick Sewage Treatment Plant and returned to the sewer for full treatment at LMWQCC.

During the treatment process the solids are removed as 'sewage sludge' and incinerated in a high temperature furnace. The resulting ash, Agri-Ash, is sold to farmers as a soil conditioner.

ACTEW operates three wastewater reuse projects in the ACT. Through the Lower Molonglo Water Reuse Scheme, a proportion of the wastewater treated at LMWQCC is supplied to nearby vineyards (100 hectares) and a golf course (30 hectares) for irrigation (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a:45).3 As the LMWQCC is remote from the rest of the city, the major reuse opportunities are for agricultural or industrial activity near the plant. The LMWQCC also has a role in remotely monitoring and controlling the North Canberra Effluent Reuse Scheme.

ACTEW's treatment process is designed to prevent wastewater discharged into the Molonglo River adversely affecting the environment and downstream users. The treated water from LMWQCC helps maintain river flow, supporting aquatic life especially during dry periods. The treatment process also reduces the levels of nutrients upon which algae feed. The ACT Environmental Protection Act 1997 sets licence conditions aimed at protecting the rivers into which water is discharged, including chemical testing and biological monitoring programs, with performance results reported monthly. Extensive monitoring is undertaken to ensure water quality, and ecological monitoring, such as the Fish Monitoring Program, provides information on the river's health. The numbers of macroinvertebrates (small crustaceans and insects) are also monitored regularly. Platypuses frequent the area where treated water re-enters the Molonglo River, and have even been known to visit the plant (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a:44).

As well as its specific ecological sustainability initiatives, the LMWQCC has developed an environmental management program and was the first sewage treatment facility in Australia to gain certification under the international standards for Quality Management Systems (AS/NZS ISO 9002) and Environmental Management Systems (AS/NZS ISO 14001). The quality of the discharge leaving the LMWQCC is summarised in the Discharges to waters indicator. Apart from the diffuse source water quality problems associated with land use and the 2003 bushfire, the LMWQCC is the single largest point source of pollutants within the ACT. While this is the case, the LMWQCC meets the discharge standards set by the Environmental Protection Authority. The current salt loads exported from the LMWQCC are approaching international standards. The effect of this discharge on water quality is discussed in the Water quality (lakes and rivers) indicator.

Storm water stresses and sustainability

The ACT storm water infrastructure, managed by Roads ACT, has a replacement value of over $2 billion and includes 5800 kilometres of pipes and 62,000 sumps, 94 gross pollutant traps, two dams and 12 weirs. While the condition of the infrastructure is reported as fair to good, like other Roads ACT assets, the targeted storm water infrastructure service levels are not being achieved. Major sources of maintenance problems include infrastructure age, and capacity problems from urbanisation increasing storm water runoff to higher than anticipated levels, with surface water problems the second highest number of faults reported (Roads ACT 2006).

Roads ACT's Asset Management Plan 2004–07 emphasises the need to move to a fully planned, proactive maintenance regime. The ACT Government has allocated $2 million for each year over the five years from 2007 to 2012 to maintain storm water infrastructure service levels consistent with the plan.

Energy supply assets

Energy supply sustainability presents a challenge, as most energy in the ACT is still derived from non-renewable sources, with current minimal development of renewable sources (such as the mini hydro facilities at the Mount Stromlo treatment plant and at Googong dam). ActewAGL has wind monitoring towers providing data at sites identified for possible wind power generation projects, but there is no indication as to when a decision will be made for progressing with a wind energy development.

As with water supply and wastewater, infrastructure in the ACT for energy supply is generally in good condition.

Electricity network

ACTEW owns and operates the Territory's 5000 kilometres of electricity distribution lines including the 132 kV sub-transmission network; 11 kV and 22 kV high voltage distribution networks, and a 415/240 volt low voltage network. TransGrid, as the main provider of transmission services to the ACT, recently augmented the capacity of the existing principal and subsidiary bulk supply connection points to the ACT, the Canberra Substation in West Belconnen, and the much smaller supply (about 5%) through the Queanbeyan Substation. A third supply point in the south of the ACT is expected to come on line in 2009, with further capacity improvements in 2012 (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a:31).

The ACT has a small number of mini hydro and methane gas generators connected to ACTEW's networks, but the overall embedded generation capacity is less than 10 MWs of the more than 2.9 million megawatt hours (MWh) total of electricity distributed through the ACT network to ACTEW's 154,000 customers. Fifteen retailers are licensed to supply electricity in the ACT, with only five actively serving both domestic and non-domestic customers.

The average yearly non-domestic electricity consumption in the ACT is around 120 MWh, with 16,000 non-domestic users of the total 146,000 ACTEW customers. Insufficient data is available on the efficiency of the non-domestic 10.9% of consumers to assess their role in the sustainability of the Territory's electricity supply, a surprising omission given that these non-domestic users consume 60% of the total 2.9 million MWh of electricity brought into the ACT (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a:31.

The domestic consumers who use 40% of this total have an average 8 MWh, average yearly consumption, higher than for most other Australian households. This difference, officially attributed to the Territory's greater need for winter heating and an increasing use of household air-conditioning in summer, should instead raise questions about other variables, particularly as gas supply has increasingly become Canberra's household choice for space heating. During the reporting period the moderate increases in electricity demand during winter were outstripped by the significantly greater rise in summer electricity demand, bringing the trend over the last decade to the point where the definition of electricity supply capacity in the ACT switched from winter to summer operating conditions of load demand and higher ambient temperature. Australia's actual geographical temperature extremes – there are places in all Australian jurisdictions as cold and much hotter than the ACT – also indicate the need for closer analysis of the operation of choice as distinct from necessity in the higher average annual electricity usage of ACT households. A trend to smaller as well as larger dwelling size can increase household consumption of electricity; for instance, unit developments designed and constructed without requirements for outdoor clothes drying spaces, sufficient kitchen areas, or optimal adequate insulation and ventilation make clothes driers, dishwashers and air-conditioners closer to a necessity than a choice for their residents. Large dwellings and other lifestyle choices such as energy-hungry entertainment appliances are factors that must also be examined before dismissing the Territory's larger than average yearly household electricity consumption.

An estimated 2,800,000 tonnes of CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent) is emitted every year from electricity consumption in the ACT. The energy rating system for residential dwellings in the ACT could include energy consumed in actual household living, incorporating the star rating system for any essential electrical appliances as well as the energy-efficiency of the building.

ACTEW estimates a yearly supply growth of approximately 2.5% and the electricity network remains in good condition, its performance over its smaller service area comparing well with other Australian electricity distribution businesses. To the end of February 2006, over 25,000 of the electricity customers using less than 100 MWh had elected to enter into negotiated contracts with ACTEW or another electricity retailer, but the available data does not indicate whether these were domestic or commercial customers, or the proportions of each (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a:31).

ACT gas network

Every suburb in Canberra except the village of Tharwa is served by the natural gas network, which is relatively new and in good condition. The ACT has no natural gas production and supply is mainly from the Cooper Basin via the Moomba to Sydney pipeline, and from the Gippsland Basin via the Eastern Gas Pipeline. The transmission pipeline within the ACT is relative short, a 6-kilometre section of the Moomba-to-Sydney pipeline.

The ACT gas network consists of 3500 kilometres of pipelines owned and operated by ActewAGL, an equal public and private joint venture of ACTEW Corporation Limited, wholly owned by the ACT Government, and the Australian Gas Light Company (AGL). ActewAGL Distribution holds the only gas distribution licence in the ACT. ActewAGL delivers gas to approximately 108,000 consumers, with domestic customers around 98% of the market.

The ACT retail gas supply market was opened to competition in January 2002, giving franchise customers a choice of four gas suppliers, ActewAGL Retail, Country Energy, ENERGEX Retail and Energy Australia. Only ActewAGL is licensed to supply non-franchise customers.

Gas supply, especially in space heating, hot water and cooking applications, has become a significant factor in energy demand in the ACT during the reporting period, with the brake on increases in electricity demand during winter due to the impact of gas heating.

The volume of gas supplied in the ACT is about 7000 Terrajoules (TJ), with the average annual consumption being 50 TJ by domestic gas supply customers and 1200 TJ by non-domestic customers. Over 470,000 tonnes of CO2-e is emitted every year in the ACT from natural gas consumption (ACT Chief Minister's Department 2007a:36).

Schools asset

ACT schools infrastructure maintenance was under funded until the 2006–07 Budget. Only one (Amaroo) of the 88 public schools as at June 2006 was assessed as normal in condition, functionality and compliance (Table 1). All other public schools in the Territory were rated between 'normal' and 'poor'; however, most schools (70%) were at the mid or better in these condition ratings. This rating result indicated that most of the Territory's schools had some material damage and mechanical deterioration, did not meet all of their functional requirements, and had minor deficiencies in relation to health, safety and standards compliance.

Table 1: Rating system, ACT Department of Education and Training condition report, 30 June 2007
Condition rating Physical condition Functionality Compliance
5 Excellent As new or highest quality achievable All elements must function correctly at all intended times of use. Fully meets designed function. Complies with current Australian Standards for age of building. All legal responsibilities must be met.
4 Good Minor signs of deterioration that when viewed closely may be acceptable. No deterioration when viewed from normal distance. Some deterioration may be acceptable. Generally the building meets existing function and all elements function as intended with low probability of failure Complies with current Australian Standards for age of building. All legal responsibilities should be met.
3 Normal In this category physical appearance is not the major consideration and some minor signs of deterioration when viewed from normal distances are acceptable. All required elements should function as intended; the building adequately meets the purpose for which it was built. Minor failures, except those that bring a threat to safety or security, may be acceptable. All Health and Safety Standards for age of buildings must be met.
2 Poor Significant material damage. Significant mechanical deterioration. Barely meets current function. Does not comply with Australian Standards.
1 Run Down Extreme material and/or mechanical damage, deterioration or decay. No longer meets designed function. Does not comply with Australian Standards.

In response to the condition rating of schools, the ACT Government announced allocation of an additional $90 million in the 2006–07 Budget for capital funding over four years in the Schools Infrastructure Refurbishment program to significantly improve the overall quality of the infrastructure.

In June 2006 the ACT Government released a consultation document, Towards 2020 – Renewing Our Schools, which proposed closure of a number of schools in response to changing demographics and enrolments. Following six months of community consultation and public debate in the media, the government embarked on a program of schools renewal that involved closing some schools, amalgamating others, and a significant program of building new schools. Since the last reporting period 23 schools have been, or will soon be, closed, leaving 85 schools operating at the end of the current reporting period.

Maintenance costs for government schools rose from $9 million in 2003–04 to $11 million in 2006–07. In response to escalating maintenance costs of an ageing asset stock it is understood that the maintenance budget will be increased by a further $3 million from 2008–09. Maintenance expenditure declined marginally over the current reporting period ($5.3 million in 2003–04 to $5.293 million in 2006–07) but was higher in 2004–05 ($5.525 million) and 2005–06 ($5.523 million). Expenditure on capital upgrades more than doubled, from $8.199 million in 2003–04 to $18.287 million in 2006–07).

In June 2007, the end of this reporting period, the future use for the 23 closed and soon-to-be closed schools (an asset value of around $3.7 million), now the responsibility of Territory and Municipal Services, had not yet been publicly announced. In reusing school buildings or demolishing them for other uses, care should be given to maximise opportunities for reusing, recycling and achieving maximum energy and water efficiencies. The environmental cost of demolishing buildings in good condition and rebuilding new facilities, needs to be incorporated into the decision-making process regarding the future use of any school infrastructure, as should the environmental costs associated with renovations and additional demountable classrooms where these are required. Other environmental impacts will be reported in the 2011 State of the Environment Report, by which time decisions about the ongoing use of closed school infrastructure would have been implemented.

Data sources and references

Statistical data supplied by ActewAGL, ACT Roads, and the ACT Department of Education and Training. TAMS [Territory and Municipal Services] data was supplied as ‘Current asset inventory within TAMS Integrated Asset Management System as of 31 March 2007’.

ACT Chief Minister’s Department 2007a, ACT Infrastructure: Five-yearly report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), ACT Government, available at <>

ACT Chief Minister’s Department 2007b, Next steps to ensure water security for the ACT Region, prepared by the Water Security Taskforce, ACT Government, available at <>

OCE [Office of the Commissioner for the Environment] 2003, 2003 State of the Environment Report: Infrastructure indicator, ACT Government, available at <>

ACT Department of Education and Training 2006, Towards 2020: Renewing our Schools 2007, ACT Government, available at <>

Environment ACT 2004, Think water, act water: Strategy for sustainable water resource management in the ACT (volume 1 of 3), ACT Government available at <>

Roads ACT 2006, Asset Management Plan 2004-07, Territory and Municipal Services, ACT Government, available at <>


1 Achieving the balance between investing in new infrastructure to accommodate an ever-expanding population and undertaking sufficient maintenance of existing infrastructure is always a challenge, given limited budgets.
2 This plan is yet to be formally adopted by the ACT Government at the time of writing.
3 The volume of water used was not available.

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