In early November 2022, Priyani de Silva-Currie (IPWEA NZ President, and Advisor of Asset Management at Beca), represented New Zealand at the IFME congress in South Africa. The congress presented an opportunity to gain international insights into infrastructure asset management practices and municipal engineering work. It was also an opportunity for communicating New Zealand’s unique perspectives.

IFME Highlights

2022 is the 60th Anniversary of the IFME organisation, and this was commemorated during the event. The focus of the meeting was to create and confirm the strategic plan over the next three years, and to galvanise the new sub-committees created within the organisation. Priyani was appointed to Chair the Marketing and Communications committee which in the next 12 months will look to implement an international marketing and communications plan, as well as to promote an international leadership series.

During the IFME meeting, Priyani showcased the work being undertaken in Aotearoa, with our unique approach to Asset Management and Public Works Engineering taking centre stage. The audience saw the educational opportunities and services that IPWEA NZ can offer on an international scale. We also began the development of collaborative relationships with our peers across the globe, including the South Pacific Engineers Association, AATF, APWA, IMESA, and ICE. 

Presentations shared

The IFME meeting took place in parallel with the IMESA (Institute of Municipal Engineering of South Africa) National Conference. The room was buzzing with energy and passion, with over 500 South African Engineers in attendance. The pride of these engineers, who provide stewardship for infrastructure in a testing and challenging environment, including natural threats and disruptive geo-political circumstances, was noticeable. The theme of the conference ‘Adapting to our changing world,’ highlighted the challenges that the nation faces, including corruption and a lack of infrastructure funding. It was also with pride that attendees were part of the inauguration of the new IMESA President, Sibusiso Mjwara, the first indigenous President of the association. 

The conference was an excellent opportunity to share reports from the World Federation of Engineering Organisations and to consider the work of committees such as the Disaster Risk Management Planning committee. Many of these international groups are producing excellent case study examples and materials, as well as guides, available for use by engineers, asset managers, and infrastructure professionals around the globe. 

Technical presentations reflected similar themes to our concerns in Aotearoa. The themes included sustainability, decarbonisation, transportation, data management, and Three Waters services, highlighting the universal effort to bring asset management to the forefront in our changing world.

Infrastructure learnings from South Africa

South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) has been struck by extreme catastrophic weather and in particular, Cyclone Issa caused significant land mass to be flooded in April 2022, with 13,000 homes damaged, 600 schools damaged, and 80 failed water supplies. 440 people lost their lives in the event and a massive 40,000 people were displaced. From this, it is clear that South Africa is already being deeply affected by the impacts of global warming, which is having a huge impact on their infrastructure. 

South Africa is still managing the effects of this, with drinking water only recently being re-supplied to some communities. Outside the main central cities, there is a more basic level of housing, sanitation, and roading than in the cities. 

International Partnership

There is much to share in the international public asset management community, with common issues and common motivations to seek solutions. New Zealand needs to be part of this sharing, both as a leader for others and as an observer to bring the learnings of others back to Aotearoa.