As the financial year comes to a close for 2021 and the next year of budgets are announced across all government levels, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed the announcement of around $1.5 billion in support for local governments in the State’s budget for 2021-22.
LGNSW said that the massive, billion dollar funding announcement will empower councils to drive a locally-led economic recovery and help them create tens of thousands of new jobs for their communities.
LGNSW President, Linda Scott, said the State Government had responded positively to the association’s advocacy to help councils lead their communities through the previous 18 months raft of disasters, headlined by the COVID pandemic.
“The announcement of $550 million funding granted directly to councils and organisations to fund infrastructure and foster economic growth in 2021-22 through Restart NSW is set to create around 8000 jobs,” Ms Scott said.
“The Budget commits more than $2 billion to almost 3000 regional infrastructure projects, which will inject cash and create jobs in local communities, including an estimated 5000 new jobs through the Regional Jobs Creation Job Fund.
“In terms of job-creating infrastructure, funding for local roads, cycleways and footpaths is set to create an estimated 12,000 jobs.
“There’s $240 million set aside to improve road and connectivity conditions and help support jobs through the Fixing Local Roads and Bridges program, a significant win for councils.
“The Budget includes a welcome new $250 million fund to support upgrades to regional roads as part of the Regional Road Transfer and Road Classification Review.
“This funding shows the Government listening to our calls to act on its previous promise to take back 15,000km of roads from councils.
“There is almost $332 million budgeted in 2021-22 for road safety investment such as audio tactile markings, wide centre lines and crash barriers. This is a big win for regional road safety.”
The funding announcement also includes $490 million over four years dedicated to increasing the uptake of electric vehicles purchases by cutting taxes and reducing barriers for their use, such as increased charging stations.
Ms Scott said councils had led the charge in supporting greater EV use, including many councils replacing their fleets with EVs, and that they must now have a voice on how the State Government determines charging point locations.
“Councils have provided leadership for their communities to transition to EV use for years, and it is rewarding to see the efforts backed by funding in this week’s State Budget,” Ms Scott said.
“It is estimated the transport sector contributes about 20 per cent of New South Wales’ total greenhouse gases and is the second-biggest contributor to carbon emissions after electricity.
“While the Budget commitment includes waiving stamp duty on the EVs and provides funding for charging stations throughout the State, there is the crucial matter of where charging stations are placed.
“Ultimately, councils know their communities best and play a key role in land use planning for their areas, so it is important they are part of any discussions at the beginning of the process rather than an afterthought.
“I am passionate about protecting our environment and proud of the leadership role local government has provided in actively doing something about it.”
The Budget also includes around $149 million in 2021-22 for waste and recycling as part of the State Government’s long-awaited 20-year waste strategy, something councils have been pushing for through LGNSW’s Save Our Recycling action plan to address the growing waste crisis.
“The funding for the Government’s waste strategy is a long-awaited step forward, but we will continue to urge for even greater investment in areas such as effective recycling education,” Ms Scott said.
“If the State invested the $800 million it collects annually into waste and recovery, it could help to divert more than ten million tonnes of waste from landfill and create a staggering 10,000 jobs Australia-wide and 6500 in NSW alone.
“While we do not live in a perfect world and we didn’t get everything we asked for in our State Budget submission, there were a lot of positives.
“These outcomes will contribute to councils’ goal of leading local recovery and building future resilience for their communities, and I congratulate the NSW Government on handing down this Budget.”
Other significant Budget announcements for councils and their communities included:
- $268 million responding to the Bushfire Inquiry, bringing the total to $460 million with Commonwealth funding, which will result in equipment upgrades and implementing a new National Fire Danger Ratings System
- $64 million over four years to strengthen regional resilience through the Future Ready Regions strategy
- An extra $380 million over four years to help expedite investment into the State’s five renewable energy zones and smooth the way for an increase in solar, wind and storage projects
- $109.5 million for 25 child and adolescent mental health response teams to cover every local health district across NSW
- $150 million in 2021-22 to extend the free preschool program for NSW families for the two year before school
- $80 million to establish new multi day walks across NSW
- A $27.9 million commitment over four years to fund the expansion of the NSW Drug Court to Dubbo in an effort to tackle the ice epidemic that has particularly afflicted regional communities
- $36 million to fund 57 mental health specialists in rural and regional areas through the Response and Recovery Specialists program