THE Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW (LGSA) have welcomed the commencement of the NSW Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme, saying it honours an important election commitment to local government in the state.
The five-year, $70 million Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme was announced by Treasurer Mike Baird in the Budget in September and Local Government Minister Don Page this month announced that applications for the Scheme can now be accepted.
The Scheme will pay the first 4 per cent of the interest on significant loans that councils take out specifically to pay for the maintenance of infrastructure projects such as roads, community halls, libraries, paths, parks, sports fields and water facilities.
Mr Page said the millions of dollars in interest subsidies offered under the Scheme are expected to unlock between $750 million and $1 billion in infrastructure spending by NSW councils.
"The Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme is a key aspect of the NSW Government's Local Infrastructure Backlog Policy and will help NSW councils get on with the task of reducing the vast backlog of infrastructure projects in their communities," Mr Page said.
President of the Shires Association of NSW, Ray Donald, acknowledged and thanked the Minister for launching the Scheme, saying the measures are necessary to address "the crippling $6 billion local government infrastructure renewal backlogs identified in the Percy Allan Report."
"This subsidy, as part of the Scheme aims to encourage councils to make greater use of borrowings to accelerate investment in infrastructure backlogs," Cr Donald said.
President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Keith Rhoades, said the LGSA will be closely monitoring the process and the roll out of the latest round of the Scheme.
"The LGSA have strongly advocated for the provision of low interest loans by the NSW Government to help councils deal with critical infrastructure backlogs. We are pleased that the latest Scheme specifically targets these backlogs," said Cr Rhoades.
"While it is positive that the NSW Government has acknowledged the Local Government infrastructure renewal backlog, and the Scheme is definitely a step in the right direction, it will not be sufficient in itself. The LGSA will be calling for the expansion of the Scheme in future State budgets."
According to the LGSA, while preference will be given to projects with a total cost of $1 million, councils will also be able to bundle projects. Smaller projects or programs may also be considered for smaller councils provided they satisfy the criteria.
Councils must register their interest in taking advantage of the Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme with the Division of Local Government, after which the Division will email the electronic application form and all guidelines to interested councils.
Councils will be required to fill in their electronic application forms and have their finances assessed by NSW Treasury Corporation.
Councils must lodge their completed applications for assistance under the Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme with the Division by Friday, March 30.
Mr Page said once the application deadline for councils closes on March 30, an Assessment Panel, comprising an independent chair and representatives of the Division of Local Government, the NSW Treasury Department and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, will review councils' applications.