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The rise and rise of ‘Nation building’ infrastructure attracts talent to Aurecon

Aneetha de Silva

Aneetha de Silva, Aurecon's new Managing Director, Government

16 May 2017 - Global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Aurecon has appointed leading public infrastructure expert Aneetha de Silva as Managing Director, Government.

The appointment reflects Aurecon’s commitment to providing client-focused, innovative solutions to the Australian State and Federal Governments as they tackle the current and future infrastructure challenges.

The appointment continues Aurecon’s leadership investment in senior industry expertise to respond to the transformational change sweeping across a wide range of infrastructure sectors such as energy and resources, aviation, transport, the built environment, oil and gas, and mining.

Aurecon’s Global CEO Giam Swiegers, a big fan of multidisciplinary diversity, has made significant changes to the leadership cohort at Aurecon during his first two years as Global CEO.

These include the appointment of energy guru Dr Alex Wonhas as Aurecon’s new Managing Director, Energy & Resources, Dr Abe Nezamian as Aurecon’s Global Leader in Asset Management—another major growth area for Aurecon’s Advisory practice—and the appointment of Rowenna Walker as Global Service Leader, Rail and Mass Transit.

With 20 years’ experience in public and private sector infrastructure roles, de Silva will be the first female member of Aurecon’s global executive committee.

A respected authority in developing, procuring and managing infrastructure assets and services within public sector environments, de Silva was involved in all of Victoria’s transport public-private partnership (PPP) projects and several other social infrastructure PPPs. This includes, most recently, the West Gate Tunnel project where she led the Government approvals and communications and stakeholder relations strategy for the winning contractor, the CPB Contractors-John Holland consortium. Her specialist expertise in PPPs and the multi-faceted experience she brings to infrastructure issues has shaped the public agenda nationally through strategic advice to State and Federal Governments, as well as globally to Asian Governments.

Aurecon’s new leadership appointments come at a time when the industry is still grappling with the complexities of the national infrastructure challenge. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that there will be roughly USD70 trillion invested in global infrastructure over the next decade, with USD26 trillion of this in Asia and USD700-800 billion in Australia, alone.

State Governments remain the primary originators of infrastructure projects. However, the infrastructure community remains polarised over the role of the Federal Government in promoting its ‘nation building’ and ‘smart cities’ agenda. The recent Federal and State budget announcements have fuelled further debate on this topic and the optimal funding and financing solutions for much-needed national infrastructure.

Swiegers comments, “We are seeing this issue playing out across the world with Governments being forced to prioritise investment, in their ‘better cities agenda’, while seeking to stimulate economic development, and job creation, as well as poverty alleviation and improvements in land use.

“Navigating these mounting challenges requires far more than infrastructure design. We’re seeing a heightened demand for technical solutions that drive optimal commercial as well as socio-economic outcomes for clients and communities, alike.”

De Silva has been tasked with establishing a deep understanding of Aurecon’s Government clients’ needs and working closely with its global team of engineers and infrastructure advisors to resolve challenges.

She believes there is tremendous scope for Aurecon to add value to its Government clients at this critical time for the infrastructure sector.

“Better long-term planning – on a corridor and precinct level – will enable project technical designs and commercial solutions to be optimised and projects to be put to market quicker. This will also drive down project costs, allowing the sensible exploration of alternative project funding solutions with a view to stretching the infrastructure funding dollar,” explains de Silva.

“I was attracted to Aurecon’s strength in engineering-led design and deep drive to bring global best practice and innovation to its clients. In particular, around the use of disruptive technology solutions in greenfield projects, as well as to unlock greater value from existing infrastructure assets.”

She says it is important to understand that infrastructure impacts on the community very personally, but it also has the potential to change people’s lives for the better, immediately. The Australian public increasingly wants a direct say in the infrastructure solutions that Governments develop, especially in linear infrastructure projects – such as rail – and hub/precinct developments – such as Western Sydney Airport.

“Aurecon is positioned to support the Australian Government to better capture innovation through design and technology and help develop its strategic policy framework to secure community buy-in for its infrastructure initiatives,” comments de Silva.

Explains Swiegers, “Aurecon will continue to invest in strong leaders who provide not only eminence in their space, but have the leadership style, global mindset and courage to lead amidst ongoing disruption. Experts such as Aneetha bring subject matter expertise and advisory capabilities to major growth markets for Aurecon, and play an important role in developing our global teams to meet clients’ most significant and changing challenges.”

Swiegers believes the appointment also reflects Aurecon’s commitment to building the kind of cross-cultural, multidisciplinary and gender-equal workforce that will see smart businesses like Aurecon become future ready.

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