By Cr Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association

In a landmark win for local communities and Australia’s 537 councils, the Federal Government recently announced a $500 million per year increase in Roads to Recovery funding. This major funding increase – which has been a core focus of ALGA’s advocacy and leadership over recent years – was announced by Infrastructure Minister Catherine King on 19 November, in response to the Federal Government’s Infrastructure Investment Program (IIP) Review.

We were delighted to welcome this extra funding– to be phased in over the Federal Budget forward estimates – because it will help us to deliver safer local roads in our communities, and boost our nation’s productivity. I sincerely thank Minister King and the government for responding to our ongoing calls for support, and recognising the key role our local roads and infrastructure play in building more resilient and connected communities.

In 2022 alone, 46 disasters were declared across Australia, covering more than 300 different council areas. Increasing Roads to Recovery funding to $1 billion per year will enable us to fix our damaged roads, and build them back to a better, more resilient standard. As part of the IIP review, the Government also announced a $40 million per year increase in Black Spot Program funding, as well as a new Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program. This new program will combine the existing Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity and Bridges Renewal Programs, with funding gradually increased from $150 million to $200 million per year.

Unfortunately, more than 1,100 people have lost their lives on Australia’s roads already this year, with rural, regional and remote areas over-represented in fatalities. So investing in safer local roads, especially outside of our major capital cities, will help reduce this unacceptably high national road toll.

In November, I was also delighted to welcome a new independent report by the Grattan Institute calling for Australia’s councils to receive an extra $1 billion in federal funding each year to address our road maintenance deficit. The Potholes and Pitfalls: how to fix local roads report recommended that Australian councils be given an extra $400 million per year in Roads to Recovery funding, and a $600 million increase in Financial Assistance Grants.

We were thrilled the government has agreed to increase Roads to Recovery funding, and we are now strongly focused on securing more untied Financial Assistance Grants. Restoring Financial Assist Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue would support us to fully address the $1 billion per year road maintenance gap, while also investing in the livability and productivity of our communities.

Local governments collect less than four percent of national taxation, and ALGA will continue to push for long-term, sustainable funding partnerships that will support your councils to be financially sustainable into the future. Finally, I wish everyone in local government a very Merry Christmas, including our mayors, shire presidents, councillors, staff and volunteers. I hope you all have a relaxing break and a prosperous New Year – and please drive safely on our roads these holidays.

Cr Linda Scott is President of the Australian Local Government Association, the national voice of local government, representing 537 councils across the country. 

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