BUDGET 08-09: Program targets ailing regional infrastructure

Treasurer Wayne Swan has delivered the Rudd Government’s first Budget – a surplus budget of $21.7 billion that aims to provide a long term investment in regional infrastructure.

Among the announcements in the budget was a Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program that will be established from 2009-10.

The new Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program will be funded to deliver major investments in regional and local community, recreational and environmental infrastructure initiatives.

Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Paul Bell applauded the announcement of the program suggesting it is a response to the extensive grass-roots campaign waged by local government which drew attention to Australia’s community infrastructure crisis.

“I congratulate councils for their energy and enthusiasm and for submitting well over 1,000 examples of ailing infrastructure onto ALGA’s on-line Community Infrastructure Ideas Register which sparked a national debate directly leading to this initiative.”

The 2008-09 Budget allocates $176 million to a Better Regions program and up to $74 million for the Regional Development Australia network.

The new Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program will supplement these programs from next year’s Budget and fund major investments in regional communities.

Better regions

The $176 million Better Regions program aims to deliver on the Government’s election commitments – and provide regional Australia with much needed community facilities and services.

The Better Regions projects encourage economic and community development and invest in local infrastructure such as:

– the revitalisation of towns’ main streets;
– multi-purpose community and resource centres;
– major sport and recreational venues; and
– community transport infrastructure.
Under the program, critical community projects will be funded across Australia including investments in the Hunter Region, Kempsey, Geelong, Townsville, Bendigo, Alice Springs, Mandurah, Sunshine Coast and northern Tasmania.

New regional development body

The Government has established Regional Development Australia (RDA) with an allocation of more than $17 million this year to ensure effective engagement with communities.

A new body, it will take on take on a broader role to provide strategic input into national programs, improve the coordination of the Government’s regional development initiatives, link closely to local governments and other regional organisations.

The new RDA network across Australia will build on and replace Area Consultative Committees.

The Federal Government will develop the RDA’s final structure this year in consultation with regional communities and stakeholders.

The public consultations are expected to be conducted by the new RDA network and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

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