By Rob O'Brien
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has criticised the State Budget as falling well short of meeting the challenges faced by local government in preparing communities for bushfire risks, funding community infrastructure, and delivering land use planning reforms.
MAV president Bill McArthur labelled the Budget “election-friendly”, delivering in areas of community safety, health and education, but leaving councils to “go cap-in-hand to ratepayers to meet the growing funding gap in areas of shared State-local government responsibility”.
Cr McArthur said that there appeared to be a willingness to load up councils with additional responsibilities without a commitment to working in partnership.
“While a total of $500,000 was allocated to assist local government to deliver Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs) in bushfire risk areas, the funds won’t cover costs for this State-imposed obligation,” he said.
“A critical concern is the maintenance of vegetation around NSPs to meet strict radiant heat and defendable space criteria after the winter growth. Estimated to be as high as $40,000 per site in some rural areas, it is simply cost-prohibitive for many communities."
Cr McArthur said the CFA had been funded to provide support to councils on critical emergency management initiatives such as the Fire Risk Register, Township Protection Plans and vegetation management, but the expanded role of councils remained under-resourced.
He welcomed the $14 million boost to extend the building and expansion of kindergarten and childcare facilities, but said much more State and Commonwealth recurrent and capital funding was needed to fix ageing facilities and deliver on government kindergarten and childcare reforms.
He also cited funding shortfalls in the Living Libraries capital works program and said he was hopeful that further discussions with the State will see the Planning Process Improvement Program funded.
“Other priority challenges yet to be addressed by the State include partnering with councils to deliver energy efficient public lighting, support for regional planning and economic development, continuation of the successful local roads to market program, climate change adaptation, and planning for population change,” he said.
“We remain optimistic that some of these important initiatives will be announced as part of the long-awaited Regional Blueprint being launched next month,” he said.
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