Transport and infrastructure is a key area of expenditure for all councils and is a key area of funding for local government from the Australian Government. In 2014-15, councils spent almost $7.6 billion on transport and communications (ABS).
While funding for local roads is primarily funded by councils, and therefore local ratepayers, federal funding is essential for local government to provide the local infrastructure and services the community needs. To assist councils, the Australian Government provides three important programs:
ROADS TO RECOVERY PROGRAMME (R2R)
Over the 5-year period 2014 to 2019, the Australian Government will provide $3.2 billion under the Roads to Recovery Programme to Australia's local councils.
Introduced in 2001, the program is essential to help council address the maintenance backlog on local roads. R2R is a true partnership between the Australian Government and local government. This funding is greatly valued by all councils and their local communities.
An ALGA study released in 2010 into local road funding estimated that to simply maintain, rather than improve Australia’s local roads up to 2025, an addition $1.2 billion annually is required.
Without this additional funding, underinvestment in local roads will continue. This funding shortfall hinders local and regional social and economic development, and ultimately affects the development and productivity of the nation as a whole.
ALGA has called for the federal government to commit to the permanent doubling of the Roads to Recovery funding.
BRIDGES RENEWAL PROGRAMME
The 2015 State of the Assets report shows that councils own $1.71 billion timber bridges, 4 per cent of which are in poor or very poor condition. ALGA strongly welcomed the much-needed bridge renewal program of $300 million over five years, announced in 2014-15, aimed at helping councils address the very substantial problems affecting local bridges, especially timber bridges.
However, given the magnitude of the task facing councils to manage this infrastructure, ALGA believes the Australian Government should look to make this program permanent to allow greater productivity benefits to be realised.
BLACK SPOT PROGRAMME
The Black Spot Programme is part of the federal government’s commitment to reduce crashes on Australian roads. Road crashes are a major cost to Australians every year and Black Spot projects target those road locations where crashes are occurring to reduce the risk of crashes.
The Australian Government has committed $500 million to the Black Spot Programme from 2014-15 to 2018-19, which includes an additional $200 million over two years from 2015-16 to improve road safety across the nation. This programme has proved very effective, saving the community many times the cost of the relatively minor road improvements that are implemented.
The Black Spot Programme makes an important contribution in reducing the national road toll under the National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan.