Martin van Bueren

Director

Martin is a leading economist with 20 years consulting experience in Australia and overseas. He has an extensive record of project experience in a wide range of industry sectors, including water services, mining, energy, infrastructure, ports, and agriculture. Martin’s core competencies include water policy and management, regulatory economics, pricing, cost-benefit analysis and strategic program reviews. He has specialist expertise in the valuation of environmental and social impacts through choice modelling and other techniques. Martin’s technical skills are complemented by his strong managerial and leadership expertise. He has managed many high-profile assignments and coordinated inter-disciplinary teams.

Martin was formerly a Director in the economics group at PwC and prior to that he held senior positions at the Allen Consulting Group and the Centre for International Economics.

Contact details

Phone: +61 407 348 612

Email: m.vanbueren@synergies.com.au

Martin van Bueren's Recent Projects

Report

CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

Although funding and financing issues are widely cited as an impediment to delivering water sensitive urban design (WSUD), funding and financing issues are not the main impediment to delivering WSUD, at scale. Rather, the main issue is the ‘authorising environment’ for investment decision making. Read more here in this report by James Fogarty and Martin van Bueren.

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Report

Review of the Western Australian Rail Access Regime

Western Australian Treasury has published a Final Decision Paper outlining the recommendations approved by Government. Synergies quantification of costs and benefits is included in Appendix 4.

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Case study

WA rail access framework review

The WA Government is reviewing the WA rail access regime as established by the Railways (Access) Act 1998 and the Railways (Access) Code 2000. The regime has been in operations for over 15 years. The review aims to improve the existing regime to meet its objective, which is focused on encouraging the efficient use of, and investment in, railway facilities by facilitating a contestable market for rail operations. The current light-handed regime has several ...

Case study

Impact assessment of the proposed CRC for Transformation in Mining Economies

The University of Western Australia, in partnership with University of Queensland, is leading a bid to establish a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to investigate new technologies and improved practices for mine closure. The rehabilitation and relinquishment of mines that have come to the end of their life is becoming an increasingly important issue for the mining sector, both here in Australia and internationally. With billions of dollars invested in mine rehabilitation each year, it is ...

Case study

The value of investing in R&D for the WA sheep industry

The WA sheep industry makes a significant contribution to the State’s economy, and has experienced a resurgence in recent years on the back of strong wool prices and productivity gains, particularly in lamb meat production. At present, the industry generates approximately $1.25 billion in sales and employs around 5000 people directly, with a further 1, 350 indirect jobs. But the industry is facing challenges and will need to maintain it’s productivity growth trajectory to remain ...

Case study

Economic benefits of strategic environmental assessment for Perth-Peel region

Over the next 30 years, around 18, 000 hectares of native vegetation is expected to be cleared in metropolitan Perth to accommodate the state’s growing population. In order to improve the level of protection afforded to the environment, while ensuring economic development can proceed, the WA State Government has commenced work on preparing a Strategic Assessment for the Perth-Peel Region (SAPPR). Synergies was engaged to assist with evaluating the costs and benefits of the proposed ...

Case study

Economic impact of the WA Biodiversity Science Institute

The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) was established by the WA government in 2015 to perform the role of a ‘science broker’, with the purpose fostering greater collaboration in finding practical, strategic solutions to the State’s biodiversity management challenges. WABSI’s stakeholders include the mining industry, government, researchers and non-government organisations. Synergies was engaged by the WABSI board to prepare an independent review of the value and impact of the Institute over the past four ...

Case study

The economics of responding to drought in Greater Sydney

Sydney Water engaged Synergies to develop an economic framework for quantifying the risks, costs and benefits of a drought management strategy for Greater Sydney. The framework examines the optimal sequence of new water supply projects as Sydney’s storage levels drop. The optimal strategy is one that avoids the risk of storages falling below critical levels (and triggering the need for very significant water restrictions), while minimising the cost of investing in capital projects that may ...

Case study

Please hold: costing telco customer wait times

Synergies was engaged by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) for advice on estimating the value of consumers’ time wasted (“time forgone”) trying to resolve customer service issues and the cost to consumers of intermittent or delayed supply (“reliability”). The aim of the advice was to provide an evidence base and a source of practical guidance on matters including how to apply non-market valuation techniques in the telecommunications context and the strengths and limitations ...

Case study

Evaluating ‘Royalties for Regions’ investment in WA tourism projects

Over the past 10 years, Royalties for Regions (RfR) has provided $208 million in funding for regional tourism projects in Western Australia, with a wide diversity of projects being funded across nine development regions. Synergies undertook an evaluation to provide insight to the extent to which the RfR investments have contributed to economic growth and what factors need to be considered for future public investment in regional tourism.

Case study

Peer Review of the Economic Analysis of the Nullinga Dam Preliminary Business Case

Synergies was engaged by Building Queensland to undertake a peer review of the economic analysis conducted as part of the Preliminary Business Case (PBC) for the proposed Nullinga Dam. The PBC identified an opportunity to expand irrigated agricultural production in the Atherton Tablelands through the supply of medium priority water entitlements from the proposed dam. The report presented to Building Queensland identified critical issues in relation to both the water demand assessment and economic analysis.

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Case study

Economic, financial and social impacts of the Subiaco East redevelopment project

LandCorp engaged Synergies to assess the economic, financial and social impacts of a range of concept plans for the Subiaco East redevelopment project, which focused on the redevelopment of key sites marked for demolition and decommissioning into a vibrant, mixed-use city village. Synergies’ analysis informed decisions around the preferred concept plan based on a range of criteria. A preferred option was recommended for approval as part of the submission of the Detailed Business Case to ...

Case study

Assessing the economic benefits of restoring the historic Esperance Tanker Jetty

The Shire of Esperance is examining options for replacing the 80-year-old Esperance Tanker Jetty, which is currently in a dilapidated state. Synergies, in partnership with Whitney Consulting, was engaged by the Shire to prepare a cost benefit analysis as part of a business case for restoring the structure, with consequent tourism and amenity benefits for Esperance. The Shire used the business case and supporting analysis to apply for funding from the Australian Government’s Building Better ...

Report

Community values for green public open space in Perth, Western Australia – a choice modelling analysis

With a drying climate, Perth is facing difficult decisions about how to manage green public open space (POS) in the metropolitan area. At present, local councils irrigate POS with groundwater. But this resource is becoming depleted owing to reduced recharge, prompting the State government to consider reducing licensed allocations. In this study we use a choice modelling survey of 525 Perth households to assess whether community is prepared to pay for more expensive sources of ...

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Case study

The economics of options for managing groundwater in Perth’s Gnangara area

The Gnangara Mound just north of Perth is an important source of groundwater for public water supply, agriculture, and other users. Groundwater levels have been falling over the last 20 years or due to declining rainfall, increased groundwater abstraction in line with population growth, and the impact of pine plantations in the area that use considerable volumes of water. Synergies was engaged by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) to quantify the economic ...

Case study

Economic evaluation of the Burnett River to Howard Water Supply Pipeline Project

Synergies was engaged by the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) to conduct the economic analysis of the Burnett River (Paradise Dam) to Howard Water Supply Pipeline Project (the Burnett River pipeline project) in accordance with the requirements for a Preliminary Evaluation as set out in the Queensland Government’s Project Assessment Framework.

Insight

Mobility – what are the actual costs?

Increasing population and urban density are changing transport infrastructure requirements in many cities and regions in Australia. Efficient transport planning is becoming increasingly important to support future economic prosperity and for meeting community expectations.

Case study

Reviewing Sydney Water’s obligations to service wholesale customers

In 2006 the NSW government introduced new legislation to facilitate competition in the provision of water and wastewater services. Since that time, a number of independent water utilities have emerged. These utilities can, and do, compete with Sydney Water in delivering services to retail customers. In this study, Synergies was engaged by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to examine whether there should be any specific obligations imposed on Sydney Water to ensure ...

Case study

Commercial feasibility of recycled wastewater for industrial supply in WA’s Western Trade Coast

The Western Trade Coast (WTC) is a 3, 900 hectare industrial region adjacent to Cockburn Sound, just south of Fremantle in Western Australia. Planning provisions have been made to accommodate the development of new heavy industry in the region. Over the next 10 years it is forecast that an additional 6.4 gigalitres of water will be required to support the growing needs of industry. This level of demand is expected to exhaust all remaining ‘in ...

Case study

Assessing the feasibility of the NuWater project

Synergies was engaged by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) to undertake a water demand assessment and to assess the economic and financial and commercial feasibility of the NuWater project – a proposal to supply recycled wastewater from treatment plants in South East Queensland to agricultural producers in the Lockyer Valley and on the Darling Downs.

Case study

Economic and financial viability of wastewater recycling options for Perth’s north east corridor

This project assessed the economic and financial viability of a number of different options for supplying non-potable water to Perth’s north east corridor. This is a mixed rural-residential area on the fringe of Perth that is experiencing increasing demand for water as new residential estates are developed, while at the same time being confronted with depleting groundwater due to climate change. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) engaged Synergies to assess whether there ...

Report

Water demand assessment for the NuWater Project feasibility study

This report presents the results of the economic and financial and commercial analyses of the shortlisted options for the NuWater project, which involves the supply of recycled wastewater from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) located in South East Queensland (SEQ) for beneficial reuse in the Lockyer Valley and on the Darling Downs. The economic and financial and commercial assessment of the shortlisted options was
undertaken following the completion of a demand assessment for the project. ...

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Report

Economic and financial assessment of the NuWater project

Synergies was engaged by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation to undertake a water demand assessment, a financial and commercial analysis, and an economic analysis of a proposal to supply recycled wastewater from treatment plants in South East Queensland to agricultural producers in the Lockyer Valley and on the Darling Downs. This involved extensive consultation with agricultural producers to firstly establish a demand profile for the water to be supplied by the project and secondly to quantify ...

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Case study

Options for an energy efficiency scheme in WA

The cost of household energy bills in Western Australia has increased substantially over the past decade and is forecast to keep rising, driven by projected increases in electricity prices above the rate of inflation. This is contributing to pressures on household budgets, particularly those on low incomes. Government programs to assist low income households improve their energy efficiency is one means of addressing rising electricity prices and the financial hardship caused. The WA Public Utilities ...

Case study

Economic analysis of the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project

Synergies was engaged by Building Queensland to assist with the development of the Detailed Business Case for the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project. Synergies’ key task was completing an economic analysis of the proposed Rookwood Weir, which will be capable of supplying up to 76, 000 ML per annum for urban, industrial and agricultural use. Synergies also assisted with the preparation of several other chapters of the business case, including the base case, public interest ...

Case study

Valuing the social and economic benefits of urban renewal – Fortitude Valley, Qld

Inner urban redevelopment projects have great potential to deliver multiple benefits for the community. When done well, redevelopment can dramatically improve the amenity and ‘livability’ of an urban centre. In this study, Synergies was engaged by LaSalle Managed Investments to quantify the social and economic benefits of a proposed project to refurbish the Fortitude Valley Railway Station, just outside central Brisbane.

Case study

Economic and social contributions of Lihir gold mine

Lihir gold mine, located in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is one of the world’s largest gold deposits. Production commenced in 1997 and it is estimated that there is another 31 years of gold reserves remaining at the site. Synergies was engaged by Newcrest, the mine’s owner and operator, to assess how the mine is contributing to the regional and national economies of Lihir and PNG. Both economic and social ...

Case study

Emu Swamp Dam – Agricultural and industrial water demand assessment

Synergies undertook an assessment of the agricultural and industrial water demand that could potentially be met by the proposed Emu Swamp Dam. The analysis was part of the Strategic Assessment of the project, the purpose of which was to inform the decision on whether a Preliminary Business Case was to be taken.

Case study

Health and safety benefits of electrical switch protection devices

Electrical safety switches are now commonplace in most residential premises, but under current regulatory requirements in Queensland, only power and lighting circuits need to have safety protection devices installed. The Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) engaged Synergies, in partnership with DBM Consultants, to assess whether the current regulations should be extended to require safety switches installed on all circuits, thereby eliminating the risk of accidental electrocution in the home. To answer this question, Synergies surveyed ...

Insight

The new Victorian Water Regulatory Framework (PREMO)

Victoria will be implementing a new water pricing framework for the next regulatory price review in 2018. The framework will apply to 16 of the State’s urban water businesses and Southern Rural Water [1].

Case study

Survey of strategic issues confronting the Australian rail industry

In 2016, Synergies was contracted by the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) to undertake an inaugural survey of stakeholder perspectives about the challenges, opportunities, and future strategic directions for the rail industry. The survey was designed to assist in promoting dialogue within the industry and serve as a baseline against which to measure future trends in issues and priorities.

Report

ACRI Industry Stakeholder Survey 2016

Synergies was engaged by ACRI to design and implement a major survey of stakeholders operating in the rail industry. The aim of the survey was to identify stakeholder perspectives about the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian rail industry, together with collecting views about strategic priorities going forward. The survey provided fresh insights about issues and stakeholder concerns. ACRI has published our report on its website and intends to commission a follow up survey to ...

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Insight

Recent price reviews in the water sector

In June 2016 a number of regulatory pricing reviews in the water sector were finalised. This includes: Hunter Water, Sydney Water and Water NSW (IPART), Melbourne Water and Goulburn Murray Water (ESC); and SA Water (ESCOSA).

Insight

ESC paper heralds a new regulatory pricing model for Victoria’s water sector

The Essential Services Commission (ESC) released a Position Paper that proposes a new model for regulating prices of water services in Victoria.

Insight

WA – An Economy in Transition

A cursory glance says Western Australia’s (WA’s) economy is doing okay. Real Gross State Product (GSP) is growing at a healthy pace, inflation is low and unemployment is a little high but a long way from the levels seen in the early 90s. But there is another story that doesn’t show up in those headline figures. Falling commodity prices are impacting all areas of the economy, as can be seen in our Western Australian Economy ...

Insight

IPART releases 2016 Draft Determination for Hunter Water

On 22 March 2016, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) released its draft determination for Hunter Water’s water, wastewater and stormwater drainage services. The draft determination covers a four year period from 1 July 2016. The key aspects are summarised below.

Report

DPI Water Expenditure Review

Synergies, in partnership with Cardno, were engaged by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to conduct a review of the efficiency of DPI Water’s actual and forecast expenditure over the period 2011-12 to 2020-21. The review would will inform IPART’s 2016 Determination of water management prices for the forthcoming regulatory period.

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Report

A review of the economic and social benefits of Indigenous land and sea management

Synergies was engaged by Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to prepare a report on the social and economic contributions of Indigenous ranger programs in Australia. Pew is a not-for-profit environmental organisation that funds and publishes policy research into contemporary environmental and social issues. For almost a decade the Commonwealth Government has funded Indigenous ranger groups through a program called “Working on Country”. There are now about 700 rangers operating across the country. The rangers perform land ...

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Insight

Artwork and antiques: “priceless’’ but not price-less

The past few years have seen many governments confront public debt crises. In light of this, creditors have started suggesting unconventional methods of funding these growing debts, one of which is selling off priceless national treasures. But how can one sell something that is “priceless”? After all, if interpreted literally, there is no price, so how can the transaction even take place?

Case study

The potential of microgrids to support economic development in remote communities

Advances in technology are fundamentally transforming the way in which energy services can be provided, and are allowing services to be provided more efficiently. Standalone power systems, for example, use a mix of different technologies to allow individual customers continuous energy supply without the need for grid connection. Microgrids use intelligent technologies to enable consumers to become ‘prosumers’ and actively generate and trade power on a controlled platform that ensures continuous energy supply to a ...

Case study

Economic impact evaluation of Royalties for Regions investments in education projects

Synergies was engaged by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) to evaluate the economic impacts of Royalty for Regions program investments in the education sector. A whole-of-economy CGE model was used to examine the size and distribution of welfare impacts across nine regions in Western Australia.

Report

An Alternative model for Victorian water businesses

In 2014, the Victorian government reviewed and revised the WIRO, removing the prescriptive approach to water pricing. This allows the ESC significant discretion to decide on the manner, approach and methodology (the pricing approach) used to deliver efficient pricing and service outcomes for Victorian water and sewerage customers. This paper presents an alternative, lighter handed approach to regulating Victoria’s 19 water
businesses.

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Case study

Should WA’s gas retailers be obliged to maintain a supply contingency?

This report assessed the economic case for implementing a ‘gas contingency service obligation’ on gas retailers. At the time, the WA government was considering such a measure as a means of ensuring that retailers have the capacity to maintain supply to small-use customers in the event of a gas supply disruption caused by physical failure of a gas processing plant or the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline (DBNGP).

Report

New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3

Synergies was engaged by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) to undertake a rapid Social Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) of a proposal by New Hope Group to develop a new coal mine in the Darling Downs region of southeast Queensland. A ‘rapid’ SBCA aims to identify (and value in dollar terms where possible) just the major impacts as opposed to a more detailed, comprehensive assessment of all impacts.

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Case study

Social Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Queensland mining proposal

Synergies was engaged by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) to prepare a rapid Social Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) to assess the overall impact of a proposed new coal mine in the Darling Downs region of southeast Queensland. Our role was to quantify, assess and consolidate the benefits and costs of the development in order for policymakers to consider whether the development should receive government approvals.

Report

Building Blocks Model River Murray Operations

Synergies was engaged by the Murray-Darling Basin Officials Committee (BOC) to develop a building blocks model for River Murray Operations (RMO) based on an assessment of efficient costs, and consistent with the Water Charge (Infrastructure) Rules. Our review was well received by BOC and the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council. We made various recommendations relating to improvements to operations, use of future
benchmarking and improvements to data capture and reporting to aid transparency. These ...

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Insight

Unlocking the value of nature based tourism in Western Australia

Western Australia has a wealth of natural beauty and unique landscapes in the state’s national parks, state forests and marine reserves. This, combined with growing international demand for nature-based tourism, should present a strong economic opportunity for Western Australia.

Insight

WSAA Report: Improving Economic Regulation of Urban Water

A recent report prepared by Frontier Economics for the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) compares the current regulatory regimes for urban businesses to ‘best practice’, and identifies a number of improvements, such as:

Report

Review of Western Australia’s tax system

The Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) was conducting an Inquiry into Microeconomic reform in Western Australia. The reform of state taxes was one of the key areas being explored by the ERA as part of the Inquiry. Synergies Economic Consulting was engaged by the ERA to conduct a robust analysis that informs the tax section of the ERA’s Draft Report.

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Insight

Water markets enter a new phase with first trade in environmental water

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) has recently announced that it will commence trading some of the Government’s 1700 giga litres (GL) of water holdings back into the market via public tender, initially with a small parcel of 10 GL in the Gwydir Valley, New South Wales.

Insight

Time to consider private water trusts for managing environmental water

In a previous Synergies Insight article we commented on the implications of the Commonwealth’s recent entry into water markets as a trader of water. In this article we suggest that it is timely to consider alternative models for managing the Commonwealth’s environmental water holdings.

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