Eight per cent of council assets in poor condition: report

Eight per cent of local government infrastructure assets have significant defects and are in need of replacement or repair, according to a survey of Australian councils.

Linda Scott makes a pitch for more federal funding at the National Press Club in Canberra on July 2, 2024

That’s a key finding of the latest National State of the Assets Report (NSoA) commissioned by ALGA to monitor and assess how the sector is doing in terms of maintaining local infrastructure.

Launching the report at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday, ALGA President Linda Scott said the good news was that the figure was an improvement on the previous report from 2021, albeit a small one.

“It is heartening to see that since 2021 the amount of local government infrastructure in poor condition has fallen – but from 10 per cent to 8 per cent,” she said.

Cr Scott attributed the improvement to a significant increase in federal funding for local community infrastructure over the past three years, including $1 billion worth of improvements for local libraries, recreational centres, galleries, sporting and cultural facilities and community halls.

“This is an outstanding result and a testament to the increased untied federal funding seen … over recent years. It is important to note that untied funding is what supports all councils to ensure we deliver for our communities.”

But in a pitch for an increase in federal assistance grants, (FAGs) Cr Scott said despite the improvement much more is needed to enable local government to bring its assets up to scratch.

“About $3.25 billion was committed in untied funding since July 2020, that helped us build, maintain and revitalise local facilities that Australians use every day,” she said.

“But we’re continuing to advocate for a $500 million per year replacement program for this untied infrastructure fund that will support us to better invest in local infrastructure and roads.

“It’s evidence based. It works. With funding provided to all councils on a formula basis, it supports every community and allows us to meet our local needs.”

The report shows that 65 per cent of local government infrastructure is in good condition;  27 per cent is in fair condition; and 8 per cent of infrastructure assets are in poor condition with significant defects requiring “higher order cost and interventions”.

$55 billion needed to fix assets most in need of repair

The report estimated the replacement of all assets in poor or very poor condition to be up to $55 billion. It’s estimated that it will cost up to $179 billion to replace assents that are only in fair condition.

Australia’s local governments control $643 billion worth of assets  including roads, bridges, building and facilities, parks and recreation, stormwater, water and wastewater, airports and aerodromes and footpaths and cycleways.

Around two thirds of the total infrastructure portfolio is made up of assets that provide services to local communities.

Yet the sector only recorded around $60 billion of total revenue in 2022-23, Cr Scott said.

Growing responsibilities, shrinking means

Cr Scott said the roles and responsibilities of councils have expanded since colonial parliaments began to hand over responsibility for local issues to local governments in 1840, with increased demands arising from  climate change and a growing landfill problem, and the problems compounded by rate capping and cost shifting by the states.

“The funding model hasn’t improved since 1974 in some places, it’s actually gotten worse,” she said.

She said the current parliamentary inquiry into local government sustainability was an acknowledgement the system is broken and ALGA’s submission highlighted the need for more federal support.

ALGA will also be pushing for a restoration of federal assistance grants to at least 1 per cent of commonwealth tax revenue by September at Friday’s Australian Council of Local Government forum on Friday.

The 2024 NSoA Technical Report was prepared by the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) in partnership with ALGA, and is based on surveys of 458 councils.

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