News

2019 Zunz Lecture puts spotlight on resilient infrastructure

Jennifer Shand Jennifer Shand Australasia Press Office,Sydney
19 November 2019

Arup in partnership with UTS, delivered the annual Zunz Lecture at Sydney Opera House last week, with a clear message that cross-industry thinking, collaboration and improved investment are key to achieving infrastructure resilience in Australia.

Keynote speaker Romilly Madew AO, CEO Infrastructure Australia, stressed the growing diversity of pressures on Australian infrastructure – drawing attention to the technological, economic and climate risks we’re facing. 

A resilient city can survive, adapt and grow regardless of chronic stresses and acute shocks. Anticipating and mitigating against ever-changing risks to infrastructure is becoming increasingly difficult – particularly as our assets and networks are becoming more interdependent and more complex. ” Romilly Madew AO Romilly Madew AO CEO, Infrastructure Australia

The 2019 Zunz Lecture delivered a clear message that cross-industry thinking, collaboration and improved investment are key to achieving infrastructure resilience in Australia.

With a growing reliance on digital systems, Romilly highlighted that alongside climate and economic risks, cybersecurity now presents a heightened risk to stability – especially where digital technology and more traditional infrastructure converge.

She drew on findings from the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit which acknowledged that while Australia is actively working towards more comprehensive resilience strategies, there is much more to be done. 

“All this work underscores a simple fact: it is more cost-effective to build with resilience in mind, rather than retrofit down the track,” she said. 


Arup’s Australasia Sustainability Leader, Roger Swinbourne, explained that current business cases are too focused on project output – often not considering long term social, economic and environmental outcomes.

“Rather than business cases focused on delivery only, we must shift focus to programmes that deliver outcomes and foster a resilience of place,” Roger said.

Sydney Water Head of Service Planning and Asset Strategy, Paul Higham and IAG Executive General Manager of Safer Communities, Ramana James, both highlighted the importance of long term planning and investment and better collective data for decision makers to draw on.

Richard Sharp (Arup), Romilly Madew (IA), Ramana James (IAG), Paul Higham (Sydney Water) and Roger Swinbourne (Arup)

Panellists were united that resilient infrastructure cannot be achieved in silos: it requires investors, insurers, policy makers, industry and the local community among others to drive more focused decision making. 

“We need to think more holistically about our infrastructure, not just what it does but what it provides. What will people want to use water for in a world that’s warmer?” challenged Paul Higham. 


With Sydney’s population set to expand to more than eight million people in the next 40 years, the risk of inaction amid rapidly changing environmental conditions, technological change and economic and social pressures, is a growing concern. Arup and UTS believe this is a timely and critical conversation we must have and continue in these uncertain times. 

Presented by Arup and the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), the Zunz Lecture Series was established in 2001 and explores broad community issues relating to engineering and information technology. Named in honour of the work of Sir Jack Zunz, the renowned British engineer who led the design team on the Sydney Opera House as a partner of Sir Ove Arup, we were proud to take the opportunity to celebrate his inspiring life.