$500m win for roads and community infrastructure

Australia’s councils have received $500 million to deliver priority projects via the  Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program in the federal budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivers the federal budget on March 29, 2022

The government will provide $501.7 million over 3 years from 2022-23 to extend the program, which is designed to support local councils to maintain and deliver social infrastructure, improve road safety and boost the resilience of local road networks.

“The funding will allow councils to further engage local businesses and workforces to deliver priority projects and support economic recovery,” budget papers released on Tuesday say.

The investment increases the total funding provided for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program to $3 billion, but falls short of the four-year, $500 million per annum extension of the program that ALGA had been asking for.

ALGA president Linda Scott said the extension would help councils deliver more libraries, sporting facilities, community centres, bike paths and playgrounds in their local communities. 

“Local governments appreciate any funding, but it will be critical for whomever forms the next Commonwealth Government to increase Local Roads and Community Infrastructure funding that will help us to roll out new projects across our nation,” she said on Tuesday.

Regional package

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also unveiled what he described as an ‘unprecedented regional investment package that includes transformational investments … that will unlock new economic frontiers and grow our national economy”.

The budget provides over $21 billion to develop Australia’s regions, covering transport, water and communications infrastructure. 

The package includes $7.4 billion worth of new investment in 13 water infrastructure projects for dams and water projects to improve water security and expand irrigation. This includes $6.6 billion for Queensland dams, including Hells Gates Dam, Big Rocks Weir, Emu Swamp Dam and Paradise Dam.

The budget identifies 12 programs where it will target investments through a $2 billion Regional Accelerator Program.

The program will provide dedicated funding for regional businesses and communities to access programs targeted to local priorities in infrastructure, manufacturing and industry development, skills and training, research and development, and education, budget papers say.

There’s a $1.3 billion investment in regional Australia’s telecommunications and $880 million to connect regional Australia with ports, airports and other transport hubs.

The budget also contains $17.9 billion for priority rail and road projects across Australia announced earlier this week.

There’s an additional $880.0 million for Roads of Strategic Importance, $385.4 million for the Northern Australia Roads Program and $150.0 million for the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.

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