Australia

Australian Government releases local government infrastructure funding review

AUSTRALIAN Local Government Minister Simon Crean this week released a major review that identifies potential new ways for local governments to plan, finance and deliver infrastructure investments.

The review, Strong foundations for sustainable local infrastructure, was undertaken by Ernst and Young and launched by the Minister at the National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra.

Commissioned by the Australian Government to examine ways to address infrastructure funding gaps, the review makes 13 recommendations on how councils can leverage existing funding sources for investment in new infrastructure, improve access to finance and identify and develop infrastructure.

Speaking at the Assembly, Mr Crean said Australia could be more effective in meeting its infrastructure needs through partnership and collaboration.

"Nation-building does require big investment in infrastructure, but that can't be done by governments alone we need partnerships between governments, and where appropriate, with the private sector," Mr Crean said.

"The future infrastructure needs of the nation can be met if we develop the partnerships, and as recommended in this report, consider new financial instruments."

Mr Crean said the Ernst and Young report recommends a number of financial instruments to address infrastructure funding issues and argues for a national authority capable of addressing the capability and aggregation functions along with appropriate financial instruments.

"While we are yet to respond to the report, we will work with State and Territory governments, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), state local government associations and our network of 55 Regional Development Australia committees to progress the issues raised in the report and examine the potential of developing potential trial projects, particularly in the clean energy space," the Minister said.

The Australian Local Government Association welcomed the report, with ALGA President Genia McCaffery saying it addressed a number of issues that local government has struggled with for many years.

"We have argued for years that local and regional infrastructure funding is deficient and that there are multiple economic, social and environmental benefits that would be generated by appropriate funding in this area," Cr McCaffery said.

The report, Strong foundations for sustainable local infrastructure, is available from the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport website at <http://www.regional.gov.au/>.

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