Engineers Australia Fellow and Chartered engineer Louise McCormick FIEAust CPEng has been appointed the Northern Territory Infrastructure Commissioner.
The former President of Engineers Australia’s Northern Division told create she is looking forward to doing what she loves: “bringing ideas to reality”.
“This is one of the most exciting times for the NT,” said McCormick, who has served as the acting Commissioner since May 2021.
“COVID has changed many things globally and with change comes opportunities. In Australia, we have seen a real shift to regional areas. With the rapid uptake of digital connectivity and working remotely, I do not see this changing any time soon.”
McCormick has more than 20 years of experience in the transport and infrastructure sectors, including 16 years in the NT. During this time she has been involved in the planning, delivery and management of some of the Territory’s largest and most complex infrastructure projects.
As the NT Infrastructure Commissioner, McCormick will oversee three key objectives:
- strategic infrastructure planning and development to get the right infrastructure built, in the right place, at the right time;
- delivering complex projects, including the Darwin Ship Lift, Mandorah marine facilities, Frances Bay Lock Upgrade and State Square Redevelopment; and
- working closely with the Investment and Major Projects Commissioners to win more private sector investment and achieve the NT Government’s goal of a $40 billion economy by 2030.
With just one per cent of Australia’s population spread over 1.35 million square kilometres, the NT’s infrastructure needs are vast.
McCormick said the NT has an “infrastructure deficit” and must deal with dynamic weather, from the wet season to the arid parts of Central Australia.
“For example, the Northern Territory Government manages 22,000 kilometres of roads, but only 35 per cent of these roads are sealed,” she said. “The unsealed sections can remain closed for up to six months of the year due to the wet season torrential rains.
“We also have some of the most disadvantaged remote populations in Australia … which are cut off by road almost every wet season, further exacerbating the disadvantages.”
The start of the pandemic in 2020 brought a new set of challenges.
“The Northern Territory Government made the unprecedented decision to close the Northern Territory’s borders on 24 March 2020 to keep Territorians and our remote Aboriginal communities safe,” McCormick said.
“Ensuring supply chains remained open and government business continued, but in a COVID-safe way, required me to use my engineering skills in a way that I hadn’t before. There was no rule book.”
Turning ideas into reality
McCormick always wanted to join the profession. She was inspired in part by her father, who is also an engineer.
“I love the satisfaction of turning an idea into reality,” she said. “I also love problem solving, am curious to learn everything that I can and am always inspired by engineering innovation and creativity.”
She began her career as an engineering scholarship student with the Toowoomba District Office in Queensland Transport and Main Roads. After graduating she worked as a bridge engineer on projects across Queensland.
McCormick left Queensland in 2005 to take up a senior engineering position with the NT Government. She hasn’t looked back since.
“Moving let me use the skills I had developed in the early part of my career to do many things in the Territory,” she said. “I have designed, delivered and managed many projects across the NT.
“I was also part of the NT Government team working through the transport and logistics for the $35 billion Inpex project. I later became the Inpex Transport Sub-Committee co-Chair advising on transport and logistics issues throughout the construction.”
Infrastructure Commissioner a welcome appointment
Engineers Australia’s Northern Division General Manager Keely Quinn said McCormick’s appointment would be a great benefit to the Territory.
“We’ve never had someone looking at all of these infrastructure works so holistically,” she said.
“Louise is doing it in consultation with the Major Projects and Investment Commissioners, so it means that it’s not happening in a vacuum.”
Quinn added McCormick’s trademarks are her approachability and her willingness to consult with a wide range of stakeholders to fairly assess projects.
“She brings that real engineering solution mindset to what she’s doing,” she said. “Louise sees things as a problem to be solved — not to simply go through a process.”
NT Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Eva Lawler described McCormick as “an asset to the Territory” who had been instrumental in securing Australian Government funding for significant road upgrades.
“Louise is a multi-award-winning Chartered engineer in both civil and structural engineering,” she said. “[She] is well placed to lead the Infrastructure NT Commission to work with the Australian Government and private sector to secure and deliver critical infrastructure development in the Territory.”