2021 – Terms of Reference for Technical Review Panels and their technical assurance for dam projects

Chris Nielsen, Ron Guppy, Gary Hargraves, Robert Fowden

Dam safety upgrade projects of major dams typically involve a large capital investment. It is important that expenditure decisions are based on sound criteria, both technical and non-technical. Independent peer review of technical matters plays a key role in meeting design, construction and safety objectives within practical financial constraints and assuring robust, resilient and reliable project outcomes.

An independent technical review is recommended for all dam projects.

The Queensland dam safety regulator has developed guidelines associated with technical review for dam safety projects that considers scope and limitations, expertise and governance. The guidelines are informed by literature, recent projects, a commission of inquiry, internal and external review and industry feedback. The guidelines are being implemented across major dam safety upgrade business cases through preparation of terms of reference by the Queensland Government’s business planning and implementation entities, who maintain the responsibility of providing assurance to state government projects, as well as the state’s major dam owners.

The terms of reference, supported by the underlying principles in the guidelines, provide a platform for consistent and appropriate application of technical assurance to dam projects in Queensland. Among other matters, governance is highlighted as a critical factor for success as well as clarity of the roles, responsibilities and reporting lines of all parties. The application of both guidelines and terms of reference to recent projects is discussed.

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