The Australian Local Government Association’s recent advocacy on local councils’ behalf has included submissions to Infrastructure Australia and a parliamentary inquiry into 5G technology.
Infrastructure Australia, a Commonwealth agency, is working on its 2021 Australian Infrastructure plan and has sought public comment about its 2019 Infrastructure Audit.
ALGA backs the notion of a more robust infrastructure pipeline which includes addressing freight and supply chain priorities, noting local government had a $30 billion shortfall in funding to renew or replace ageing infrastructure.
Individual infrastructure projects should be dealt with as part of a comprehensive infrastructure plan and asset management framework that is developed in consultation with all three levels of government, ALGA said.
“As an asset manager, Local Government believes that project prioritisation and selection, particularly of new road projects, needs to be appropriately balanced against the maintenance and renewal requirements of existing essential assets,” the submission said.
“In other words, asset formation should only occur in the context of detailed asset management plans, ideally integrated asset management plans across the three levels of government.”
ALGA also supported social infrastructure’s inclusion in the 2019 audit, noting local governments consider such infrastructure to be critical to community well-being.
It also backed the need to shift the focus of planning and delivering infrastructure beyond major metropolitan cities to regional centres.
The submission highlighted workforce capability concerns, especially for local government, as workers are considerably older than the Australian all-industry workforce, and councils have employee shortages including of apprentices.
Separately, ALGA told a House of Representatives Committee that while councils are supportive of improved connectivity, they are concerned by the proliferation of 5G and other telecommunications infrastructure, which has included attaching increasing numbers of equipment to infrastructure held by the local and state governments, and the private sector.
“While ALGA supports the roll out of modern telecommunications infrastructure to improve the lifestyles, environment and economy of cities and towns, it needs to be balanced with proper process to ensure structural integrity, safety, urban design, visual amenity is retained and visual interference (e.g. along road corridors) is minimised,” the submission said.
“Local government planning legislation and community consultation exist for a reason – to ensure that facilities and infrastructure meet certain standards and safety requirements.”
ALGA also encouraged the Commonwealth Government to lead the agenda on the 5G roll out, not commercial interests.
“Commercial interest needs to be balanced with planning laws which are designed to protect public safety, limit the impacts on the environment, and also to ensure the community has a say in the planning process.”
Meanwhile, Cr Linda Scott, ALGA’s Acting President and the President of LG NSW, is today representing local government at the Meeting of Environment Ministers in Adelaide. We’ll have more on the decisions of that meeting in next week’s edition.