Australia

Alliance calls for Federal Government investment in growth areas

THE National Growth Areas Alliance (NGAA), a group of 25 councils representing some of Australia's fastest-growing areas, has called on the Federal Government to invest in a number of measures to improve urban growth management, improve access to jobs and provide community infrastructure.

In its submission to the 2013-14 Federal Budget at the end of last month, the NGAA said the "status quo will mean planning for social disadvantage and additional strain on the public purse," with research indicating that an additional 1 million jobs will be needed in growth area areas by 2026.

The 25 municipalities currently accommodate a population of approximately 3.6 million, which is expected to grow to 5.4 million people by 2026. The NGAA said these people will largely live in greenfield areas, requiring the provision of a range of infrastructure, much of it by local governments.

"To date, Australia's outer growth suburbs have received limited funding support from State and Federal Governments, which has contributed to a lack of infrastructure and services, and an increase in social disadvantage," the submission writes.

"We are not going to the government begging for a hand out. We are proposing a way to better manage population growth that will increase productivity and benefit the entire nation," said NGAA Chair, Mayor Paul Pisasale.

"There is already a backlog of facilities and services and a serious under commitment of investment to service the growth that is on our doorstep. This has a national productivity impact. We are asking the Commonwealth Government to take the steps that are needed to rectify this, in partnership with us."

NGAA's key proposals include:

Urban Growth Management Program

The Urban Growth Management Program (UGMP) is proposed via COAG Agreement, to drive a new approach to Commonwealth Government policy and investment in the management of population growth in Australia's major cities, with a key focus being the designated high growth areas in outer metropolitan Australia.

Five-year funding agreements would be formally documented as inter-jurisdictional partnership contracts, with the Federal Government making its contribution to each agreed five year plan on the basis of agreed outcomes, with the prospect of continued funding tied to progress against the agreed milestones in the plans.

Skills and Jobs

The NGAA calls on the Federal Government to lead an initiative to support the creation of 20,000 jobs in 2 years in the outer growth suburbs, through a number of measures, including an extension to the Suburban Jobs Program to allow funding for new business and investment attraction strategies.

Other measures to boost skills and employment opportunities in the outer growth suburbs include the development of flexible learning spaces in areas lacking skills and tertiary facilities, the preparation of a town centre/employment hub strategy and support for industry specific business development centres.

Community Infrastructure

The NGAA proposes the establishment of a four year 'Suburban Community Infrastructure Program', where the Federal Government would allocate $100 million in low interest loans and grants in 2013-14  to contribute to the capital cost of community infrastructure in growth areas and a $10 million allocation to encourage innovative approaches to community facility provision.

In addition, the NGAA also calls for a growth area place based initiative, to be administered by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, to manage growth, employment and infrastructure investment. In 2013/14, it is proposed that this occur in Western Sydney.

It also says the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) should be extended, with priority allocations for community infrastructure and infrastructure that is needed for economic development to outer metropolitan growth areas as these places often service a larger regional area.

"Our aims are to close skills and employment gaps, improve infrastructure and optimise productivity so that we leave a legacy for the next generation that we can all be proud of." Cr Pisasale said.

This month, Interface Councils, a group of ten municipalities that form a ring around metropolitan Melbourne, launched the second edition of a report titled 'One Melbourne or Two?', which identifies service and infrastructure deficiencies for the growing population in Melbourne's outer suburbs.

Prepared by Essential Economics, the report finds that $9.8 billion (in 2011 dollars) will be required over 15 years for the provision of a range of new and upgraded infrastructure and services in Interface Councils' areas, including schools and education facilities, hospitals and aged care facilities and public transport.

More information about the National Growth Areas Alliance submission to the Federal Budget 2013-14, titled 'How Productive is Australia's Urban Growth?', is available from the NGAA website at <http://www.ngaa.org.au/>.

Melbourne's Interface Councils' report, 'One Melbourne or Two?', is available directly from <http://www.socom.com.au/sites/default/files/12213%20One%20Melbourne%20or%20Two%20FINAL%20REPORT%20Feb%202013.pdf> (PDF: 1.75 MB).

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