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IPWEA Appoints a new National Director Sustainability

  • 1.  IPWEA Appoints a new National Director Sustainability

    Posted 29 February 2012 01:03
    This message has been cross posted to the following Discussions: Sustainability and Ask Your Mates Open Forum .

    IPWEA appoints new National Director Sustainability

    IPWEA has appointed Dr Stephen Lees as its new National Director Sustainability.

    This is an important statement and intention of IPWEA to actively work in assisting public works professionals address issues of sustainability.

    Although there is no single, widely-accepted definition, sustainability is commonly related to the frequently-cited definition of sustainable development adopted in the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report:  ... development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

    Climate change is the most fundamental of all sustainability issues because the Earth's atmosphere protects and sustains all life forms. Because they share a common underlying cause - unsustainable practices - actions to tackle climate change are likely to produce co-benefits in regard to other sustainability problems.

    For this reason, as well as the criticality and urgency of climate change, it makes sense for the IPWEA to focus its initial sustainability efforts on climate change, particularly those aspects that its members can influence.

    Initially IPWEA will be consulting widely as it develops its strategy going forward on how it can best assist public works practitioners to plan and address the impacts of climate change on infrastructure.

    IPWEA welcomes comments and contributions via this Forum or directly.

    Watch this space for further news and developments.

    Dr Stephen Lees, IPWEA National Director Sustainability, may be contacted at:
    e:; m: +61 (0) 412 264 187.

    If you wish to Join any of our 5 Communities of Practice, including the new Sustainability CoP, 
    click here.


    Dr Stephen Lees

    Stephen Lees has 35 years' experience in water resources, environmental and natural resources management, both as an engineer and executive manager. This included 16 years as Executive Officer of the Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust in western Sydney and three years as General Manager of the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority, working very closely with local councils, government agencies and the community. In his various roles Stephen has directed or managed a wide range of floodplain management, stormwater quality, waterway health, water sensitive urban design, planning and development control projects. 

    More recently he has focussed on climate change risk assessment and adaptation planning. His experience in this emerging field includes a climate change adaptation risk assessment of Australia's transport infrastructure, a review of Federally-funded climate change adaptation programs, and risk assessments and adaptation action plans for five local councils in Sydney, a major water retail utility in Melbourne, Australia's largest milk processing co-operative, a major urban development in Adelaide, two large railway project designs, a Queensland power generator and several mining and coal seam gas developments. He is currently technical leader of a strategic climate change vulnerability assessment for the assets and operations of NSW Railcorp. As well, Stephen was principal author of the climate change adaptation chapter of the Australian Green Infrastructure Council's new Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Scheme. 

    Chris Champion
    Sydney NSW


  • 2.  RE:IPWEA Appoints a new National Director Sustainability

    Posted 29 February 2012 23:20

    Good to see this progressive move from IPWEA.

    However, we need to think more carefully about what sustainability means when we talk about the environment.
    The following definition (your quote) is specifically related to "development";
    "sustainability is commonly related to the frequently-cited definition of sustainable development adopted in the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report:  ... development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

    With the environment we are not developing it. It is there and has been there for a long time. Some would say we are "undeveloping" (killing) it!

    We need to make sure that anything we do now (including development etc) possibly meets our current needs but does not deliver a worse situation for future generations and that they can meet their own needs when the time comes.

    I am saying we need to move the emphasis to protecting the environment for the future generations. Uninformed, "selfish" decisions have been made in the past (and continue to be made) that jeopardise the future of the environment (the world our kids will inherit).

    The debate can be similar to the asset management (sustainability) debate;
    We need to acknowledge the problems
    We need to address current issues that are causing the problems
    We need to "stem the tide"
    We need to start trending in the right direction
    We need to go back and address the backlog
    We make sure that education and training is prolific and disseminated (globally)
    We continue to attract disciples until the "movement" is self sustaining.
    We need to attract global support (as a leader)

    I am sure this short note has introduced more questions than it has answered.
    Happy to debate anything above or any other approach.

    And before I close;  Local Governments (some 562 across Australia) and their communities that make up the bulk of Aussies, have a BIG role to play in this and we can make a difference (globally).

    Keep thinking innovation.

    Darron Passlow
    Asset Planning PRF
    Warringah Council



  • 3.  RE:IPWEA Appoints a new National Director Sustainability

    Posted 05 March 2012 14:27

    Hi Darron,

    Thanks for your well-considered and thought-provoking message.

    You have queried how sustainability is commonly defined in terms of sustainable development. The two words - sustainable and development- are often seen as being at cross purposes. Sustainable development is about getting the appropriate balance between the two. Where that balance should be located is a personal perspective. My view is that, for far too long, the balance has been unduly biased in favour of development, at the expense of sustainability.

    On another point, in your message the words sustainability and environment were used synonymously. But sustainability is about more than just the environment, however critically important the environment is. If human society is to continue as we would like it to, we need to pass on to future generations an environment that is no worse  (and hopefully better) than that which  we inherited. But we also need to pass on the social, economic, political, governance, and legal institutions that also underpin human society. How sustainable is it, for example, that in many other developed countries future generations will have to pay for the massive national debts that have been amassed in recent years?

    Because sustainability is such a broad field, IPWEA plans to focus its initial efforts on climate change, and specifically climate change adaptation. Significantly, Darron noted the similarities between asset management and sustainability in how they can be addressed by public works professionals. Indeed, the successful approach taken by the IPWEA in developing asset management best practice provides a useful model for how the IPWEA might develop useful climate change adaptation tools for its members. As well, the eight 'we needs' in Darron's message will provide a useful check list to guide us as we move forward.

    With that in mind, I am very interested to hear from subscribers to this IPWEA Sustainability Community about their needs (and the barriers they have encountered) when seeking to make (plan, design, build, implement, operate or manage) their public works or service better adapted to a changing climate.

    Your contributions to this discussion would be very welcome.

    Stephen Lees
    National Director Sustainability
    Sydney NSW