Northern Grampians Shire Council: Flood Recovery Infrastructure Repair Project

Mar 11, 2013 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Innovative Practiceand/or Service Delivery Award

Floods in September 2010, January 2011 and December 2011 caused widespread damage to Northern Grampians Shire infrastructure, leaving a damage bill of more than $30 million, four times the size of Council’s annual capital works program.

Facing a massive task, Council established a new department that sat beside the existing organisation. Part of that, the Flood Recovery Infrastructure Team of engineers, project managers and support staff, dealt specifically with flood-damaged infrastructure repairs.

The team was created to avoid staff burnout and approach the flood infrastructure repair as a fully funded, fully resourced, large-scale project. And the results have been fantastic.

Description of the project

Project objectives and outcomes

Northern Grampians Shire covers 5,728km2, and the floods damaged public infrastructure right across that area. Facing the daunting task of completing four times their usual workload, Council’s senior management team knew a shift in thinking was needed. The Flood Recovery Infrastructure Team (FRIT) was established in January 2011 to ensure the recovery effort was dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.

The three floods created 2,196 separate repair projects to roads, bridges, drains, major culverts and recreational infrastructure. Some infrastructure was damaged on three separate occasions, and as much of the damage was to rural roads, it was imperative there was no delay in remedying access.

The FRIT included seconded Council staff but the majority were specifically recruited. The team was provided with its own dedicated office space and resources, working closely with Community and Economic Flood Recovery Officers. Civil works contractors were contracted to complete physical repairs with the FRIT project managing and supervising contracts.

Constant communication with the community was essential to ensure they were kept up-to-date, and a dedicated Communications Coordinator was recruited to communicate progress on repairs.

Innovative features of the project

During the January 2011 floods, staff worked 24-hour rotating shifts in the Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre and were trying to cover their normal workloads when they should have been resting. Clearly this could not continue.

Senior management did not want to see the staff burn-out and exodus experienced after bushfires in 2006, and realised it needed to grow the organisation in order to conduct flood recovery well. The Flood Recovery Team (FRT) treated flood recovery as a large-scale project funded by more than $30 million in relief grants from the State and Federal Governments.

This model has meant FRT staff can dedicate the time needed to address flood recovery thoroughly and has resulted in some extraordinary outcomes. Not only has the team been able to conduct infrastructure repairs to a high standard ahead of schedule, the community has benefited from having the full attention of people who are passionate about helping them.

Distinguishing features of the project highlighting best practice engineering principles and technologies.

During the recovery, engineers have worked very closely with community development staff to address “whole of community” issues simultaneously. They were not just repairing infrastructure – they communicated, participated in public meetings and became involved in communities.

The immediate collation of information after the floods was critical to the project’s success and reporting. In the four weeks after the floods, 3,000+ kilometres of roads and 550 bridges and major culverts were inspected and damage recorded. Recording included GIS mapping that allowed work progress tracking and progress reports to Council, State Government and the community.

Mapping also allowed easy identification of the initial service level provided in each locality to reassure residents they had not been forgotten. This was particularly important to those who had suffered significant losses.

Council’s existing road register and asset information allowed work to be costed and prioritised in a timely manner.

With more than 3,000km of roads inspected in just four weeks, it was clear not all damage would be immediately identified. Because of this, contracts were designed to allow the easy inclusion of additional damage as it was identified. It also required good planning, close liaison between the FRIT and contractors, and contract monitoring of outputs to ensure best value was achieved. This allowed all works, including those drawn to our attention by the community when working in the area, to be economically completed in the one visit.

Benefit to the community

The FRIT has meant the community has had a resource dedicated solely to dealing with flood damage and a single point of contact for all issues. It has meant a quicker response to urgent repairs and as a result damage has been rectified quickly.

Gaining an immediate understanding of the condition of road and bridge infrastructure right across the Shire meant that the FRIT could provide accurate information to residents and include community needs, such a school bus routes, as priorities.  Having community representatives sit on the infrastructure recovery committee meant local issues, such as machinery access for sowing and harvesting crops, would be taken into account for the design and works schedule.

It has also meant a quicker response to the project list as a whole. It would have taken Council many years to complete the 2,196 repair projects if it had tried to fit it in between the normal works program.

In a broader sense, the community has also benefited as the Council has avoided the costs associated with staff burnout. It has allowed the Council to get on with “business as usual”, which has meant no delays to regular projects and programs.

Program and project management

Council would have been “behind the eight ball” had it relied on existing engineering staff fitting in additional flood works between their regular duties. Establishing the FRIT was the first step in achieving success.

After the September 2010 floods, “Schedule of Rates” plant hire contracts were initially awarded to three contractors at an estimated value of $3 million with four categories of work. Material purchases were separate contracts under Council’s existing procurement arrangements.

With the January 2011 floods occurring within days of the initial contract commencing, programming and works distribution was immediately changed and works distributed on a locality basis with efforts made to fairly share travel to worksite requirements. After initial site establishment, the flow of works almost eliminated moving and re-establishment costs, and contractors set up their own specialised groups to deal with specialised tasks. With the support of the FRIT this helped the work groups’ skill development.

With the works value of the initial contract being exceeded it was terminated after 12 months and a new contract let. This contract was awarded to the three original contractors and two new contractors who both had been subcontractors under the first contract and had taken the opportunity to expand their skills and business.


The project cost has been put at more than $30 million, funded by emergency relief grants from the State and Federal Governments.

Specific contribution made by the team

Northern Grampians Shire Council FRIT has been integral in the success of seeing repairs to flood-damaged infrastructure completed in a timely manner. As of early February 2013, 1,547 of the 2,197 repair projects have been completed, and the work will be finished by 30 June 2013, 12 months ahead of schedule.

Agriculture is the largest contributor to the Shire’s economy. The FRIT worked closely with the farming community to ensure that prompt repairs were done to specific roads in order to reinstate road access to properties. This ensured the movement of fodder, livestock and grain was not restricted by the flood damage, and that farmers could move heavy farm machinery when it was required.

This project has had the biggest single impact on addressing Council’s infrastructure renewal gap by providing a major boost to infrastructure renewal and maintenance. By the end of the project, 433km or 12.5% of Council’s 3,481km local road network will have been reinstated to as-new condition.

This will have a huge impact on Council’s capital works budget for years to come, as the overall condition of the road networks has been significantly improved.

Contracts for the repair works were awarded to five local civil works contractors. As the sheer scale of the additional work was beyond the existing capacity of each of these contractors, they all responded by making further investments in manpower and machinery. By the end of this project the regional capacity of these civil works contractors will be significantly expanded, which in turn strengthens these important local businesses.

Council staff who were seconded into the FRIT expanded their skill sets as a consequence of working with the highly skilled and experienced municipal engineers who were contracted onto the FRIT. An added bonus of this project was that it also provided an employment opportunity for a skilled migrant engineer to gain invaluable practical experience working on rural road infrastructure.

Repairing physical infrastructure such as access roads and public buildings is an important part of the community’s healing after an emergency such as a flood, and as such, the FRIT has played a large role in helping Northern Grampians Shire residents overcome the devastation of the three events.

The FRIT has gone above and beyond the call of duty on many occasions and has forged relationships with the community that will provide the Council with a lasting legacy. Without team members’ dedication to the task, the time it would have taken to complete all this work would have stretched out for several years. Council feels they are a great example of what can be achieved with fantastic teamwork and an enthusiasm for helping the community.


Treating the recovery from a natural disaster as a stand-alone project and not “normal business” has allowed Northern Grampians Shire Council to address flood-damaged infrastructure repair in a timely and thorough manner. A project of this scale and importance required dedicated resourcing, which came in the form of the FRIT.

Having the team as a “one-stop-shop” for flood-damage enquiries provided residents with a single point of contact for assistance and improved the customer experience. This in turn has improved Council’s reputation in the community out of sight.

Impacted residents were all traumatised by the natural disaster to varying degrees, and as such need to be engaged with in a different manner than is usually the case. This meant members of the FRIT – engineers and project managers who were dealing directly with flood-affected residents – needed to understand the emotional impact of the floods and work closely with community development staff while undertaking their work. People needed to tell their story on what the flood meant to them and how the repairs would aid their recovery.

Having engineers working beside other Flood Recovery Team members, including community development staff, also acted to break down the silo mentality that is so often apparent in local government, leading to improved communication and service delivery co-ordination across several departments.

At the end of it all we have stronger communities with reinstated infrastructure, and a Council in which its core staff have been largely unaffected by the flood recovery effort allowing their own important work to continue.

Northern Grampians Shire Council’s response to the extensive damage caused by the floods has been timely and efficient, which would not have been possible without the establishment of and the subsequent hard work and dedication of the Flood Recovery Infrastructure Team.


Comments are closed.

About the Awards

Welcome to our website profiling the top submissions in this year's IPWEA Victoria Awards for Excellence. The award categories are: Capital Project Awards, Innovative Practice/Service Delivery Award, and Asset Management Award.