Samuel Miller, Resource Economist
The NSW Government Movement and Place Framework, only released in 2020, seeks to recognise that the only aims of any transport strategy cannot simply be to get people from point A to B in the fastest and safest way possible. Rather, the places which people move to and through need to have their character and amenity protected or even improved as our cities and the scaffold of road and rail keeping them together continue to grow.
It’s a commendable idea, but actually applying the Movement and Place Framework to a business case and cost-benefit analysis is harder than it might seem. The Transport NSW Guidelines for Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) contain plenty of help for the analyst wishing to evaluate the movement-based objectives of say, a new road, with plenty of economic values associated with travel time and cost savings, avoided costs of injury and worse, and even the environmental costs of emissions. But assessing impacts to places becomes a lot more difficult, and CBA guidance quickly dries up in this regard. And the Movement and Place Framework is likewise silent on offering economic values for the impacts to concepts such as ‘walkability’, ‘visual amenity’ and ‘impacts to place’.
Without a bespoke economic valuation study, the analyst might find themselves at an impasse – how can they incorporate impacts on the amorphous concept of the sense of place into the mathematical criteria associated with CBA? Economists are no stranger to qualifying their CBAs by describing things that they were unable to place a dollar value on, but this is always somewhat unsatisfactory when the principle objection to a proposal is its impacts on places the community loves and enjoys.
This was exactly the situation that faced Balmoral Group Australia when given the task of developing the business case and cost benefit analysis for the new South Dubbo Bridge.
The New South Dubbo Bridge is a sorely needed crossing over the Macquarie River that will enable the City of Dubbo to achieve the aims set out in its Transportation Strategy 2020 to ‘maintain its 10-minute city feel’. Notice that the strategy has a clear movement oriented objective, but is silent on any overarching objective to maintain the look or feel of any of the places that make Dubbo, well, Dubbo.
One of the places that make Dubbo tick are the Lady Cutler Ovals -a collection of sports fields adjacent to Sandy Beach bordering the Macquarie River. It is a placed used not only by Dubbo residents, and especially school children, but also to the wider NSW Central West and Orana region. This is where people from surrounding towns come to compete, socialise, and find the community connection that is so vital to regional Australia.
Map of Dubbo and the Macquarie River. The blue circles represent areas mentioned by the community during stakeholder consultation, and the number of times they were mentioned. Larger circles represent places or movement corridors of greater concern to the community with respect to proposed alignments of the new South Dubbo Bridge.
It just so happened however that a number of the proposed alignments for the new bridge cut through the ovals, or fed onto Macquarie St, which people need to cross to access them.
Since all the proposed alignments achieved the same movement goals, without taking into account the impacts to the Lady Cutler Ovals and Sandy Beach, the CBA would inevitably identify the cheapest option as delivering the greatest net benefits. Even if the cheapest option was the most expedient – cutting over the beach and through sports fields.
This presented a conundrum. However, BGA had an ace up their sleeve.
Part of the business case included multiple rounds of community consultation, including workshops and an online survey. Due to the nature of the proposal, there were a multitude of responses from nearly every stakeholder group in Dubbo. BGA were able to use text mining approaches to identify mentions of specific places in Dubbo, and whether or not the impacts raised by the respondents were positive or negative. We were then able to map these responses onto the ‘Better Placed’ objectives identified in the Movement and Place Framework (below).
The resulting matrix enabled the analysts and decision makers to quickly identify which places were provoking the most community interest, and how the community felt about the changes under a number of themes. The analysis brings nuance to the debate surrounding the proposed new bridge – community members seem to agree that some places like Whylandra Street will be improved by the investment, but they also raise significant concern about impacts to other places of importance to the community like the ovals and riverside environment.
The community feedback, analysed through the Movement and Place framework validate the need to improve traffic flow through Dubbo, but also give the key to incorporating impacts to significant places in the CBA itself. Since the Transport for NSW guidelines provide a range of costs associated with impacts to nature and landscape and urban separation, but no guidance on how to use them, we were able to use the community feedback to each of the alternative bridge designs to scale the economic values for each accordingly.
As a result, the options with the greatest impacts to the natural amenity of the river, and the social infrastructure of the sports fields achieved lower net benefits than options that avoided the worst of those impacts. The results of the business case and CBA ultimately enabled Council to decisively take community feedback into account without the need to resort to even more consultation and debate, and effectively remove the most undesirable options from consideration. Given that the Movement and Place Framework is so new, this may be one of the first times that it has been used in this way in NSW.
BGA look forward to seeing Dubbo ultimately build a new bridge that meets and effectively balances the needs of all its citizens and respects the places that make it such a special City. As this case study reminds us: there is no point building the infrastructure to get anyone anywhere if we destroy the places they are trying to get to in the first place.
Grant Leslie, Director Balmoral Group Australia
Over the past couple of weeks the issue of coastal erosion has hit the front pages of newspapers, TV screens and social media feeds with an east coast low hitting Wamberal Beach. The images of the same situation from Collaroy Beach in 2016 come flooding back. Some estimates suggest that around 400,000  cubic meters of sand were eroded from the Collaroy event. Over the past 100 years major storms have occurred along the NSW coastline in the 1920’s, in 1944, 1967, again in 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, 2007, 2016 and now in 2020 according to the study published by Coastal Watch in 2016.
Most climate scientists, the community and political attitudes toward climate change are beginning to agree that there will be more frequent, more intense storms, bushfire events, flooding and drought. This is fast becoming the new normal and it’s playing out in front of us in real time, as the Wamberal event clearly demonstrates.
The sandy shores of our country are increasingly being exposed to these events. Australia has approximately 34,000 km of coastline (excluding all small offshore islands which if included would extent this to just over 59,000 km). 50% of our coastline is composed of sand - so about 17,000km of sandy coastline will be subject to storm activity and change over time.
The ABS estimate that 90% of the Australian population live within 100km of the coast making it one of the most urbanized coastal dwelling populations in the world. But more surprisingly Geoscience Australia have estimated that approximately 50% of the population live within seven kilometres of the coast.
More globally, a report by Arjen Luijendijk entitled The State of the Worlds Beaches estimated that 31% of the world’s ice-free shoreline are sandy. The analysis of satellite derived shoreline data indicates that 24% of the world’s sandy beaches are eroding at rates exceeding 0.5 m/year, while 28% are accreting (adding sand) and 48% are stable.
So, it’s clear from all of the research that this is a global issue and its not going away so we can’t ignore it. The Australian population is going to be more affected than in other places in the world. That's because we love the beach, right?
Much of the focus in recent years has been to understand the problem and try to estimate what the future looks like - to put it simply no one knows. What we do know is that as time goes by more and more of the population is going to be impacted one way or another by coastal erosion and there is no easy fix on this.
Engineering solutions such as beach nourishment, groynes, sea walls and the like are all options, as is a planned retreat option and all of these solutions come at a cost and have benefits. The cost and benefits derived from these solutions accrue to various parties, the affected residents, the surrounding community, the local government that has to manage the solution, and more widely the people that contribute funding to the solution (i.e. State and Commonwealth Governments)
The issue of who pays and who benefits is an emotionally charged discussion and there is no simple answer to this question either. Answering this question is something that our team have been working on for almost a year now. We have been looking at how we can dependably estimate the distribution of these costs and benefits and where they accrue to, exploring whether the various parties can afford to pay and more widely the intergenerational effects. To that end we have developed a new model called COAST™ that considers a wide range of hard engineering and socio-economic inputs to try and answer this distributional question.
Economic analysis of coastal erosion issues is critical in the overall solution so that its equitable across a range of stakeholders. We have found with recent projects that engaging us early in a coastal management project can greatly enhance the understanding of the development of any preferred solution and therefore the overall outcome.
If you want to find out more about COAST™ check out our website or get in touch with the team at BGA to find out how we can help with coastal issues affecting your community.
 Story by Coastalwatch Coastal Scientist Prof. Andrew Short and Dr. Mitchell Harley, Water Research Laboratory, University of New South Wales
 Coastwatch December 2016
 Geoscience Australia
 Article by Professor Andrew Short, Senior Coastal Scientist, Coastalwatch/CoastalCOMS