Queensland councils are on the warpath over what they claim is a backflip on a key election promise by the Newman Liberal National Party (LNP) government on the Royalties for Regions funding program they say could put local infrastructure investment at risk.
The Local Government Association of Queensland is fuming over a state government move to give state government entities access to a pool of $120 million the claim could leave councils badly short changed.
LGAQ President Margaret de Wit said councils were “deeply concerned” about any shift “to refocus Royalties for the Regions” so that state agencies can have “access to a large portion of the program’s funds.”
Importantly, peak body says the LNP’s election policy document promised that the program would “ensure, in particular, that the Queensland regions that host major resource developments receive real, long term royalty benefits through better planning and targeted infrastructure investment”.
The row over how the money from mining royalties is distributed comes as councils continue to apply strong pressure over how the spoils of the resources sector are shared and a substantial infrastructure backlog addressed.
“With less funds now available to councils under the latest round of Royalties for the Regions many local infrastructure projects are now at risk,” Cr de Wit said.
She said many council bids for funding under previous Royalties for the Regions were rejected and this revealed there was still a backlog of projects in regions directly affected by the rapid expansion of the resources industry.
A big issue for councils is that while mining might generate billions in revenue and royalties, the wealth doesn’t always come back to the towns and communities in the form of jobs and spending because many mines operate what are often self-enclosed, fly-in, fly out facilities.
At the same time, councils often need to pick up the tab for the strain mining projects place on local infrastructure like roads and airports.
“The LGAQ understands that only $60 million will now be available to councils state-wide compared with $120 million for State Government agencies,’’ Cr De Wit said.
“The Government should re-instate the Royalties for the Regions program so that it can meet its original intention to support local infrastructure investment in Queensland’s key resource regions.”
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