Our strong advocacy for greater targeted funding support for local government mitigation projects paid off last week with the release of the guidelines for the local communities component of the Preparing Australia Program.
I’m pleased to report that the Preparing Australian Communities Program is now open to all local government areas at high risk of disasters (not just the 110 disaster-declared ones).
Projects under $100,000 will no longer require a co-contribution – another welcome outcome of our close and continuing relationship with the Australian Government and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
Planning and awareness-raising projects will also be free of the need for co-contributions, which is fantastic news for our smaller rural and regional councils.
Every dollar invested in disaster mitigation delivers significant environmental, economic and social dividends, including new jobs, stronger local economic growth, lower insurance premiums, and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The PAP guidelines have been provided four weeks ahead of the program opening on 10 December. Applications close on 6 January 2022, so we will need to move fast to identify and submit potential projects.
Bank branch closures can have devastating economic – and social – impacts on communities in remote and regional Australia, which is a point I made clear when I appeared at the first Federal Regional Banking Taskforce meeting this week.
ALGA’s research has shown that the number of bank branches and ATMs has steadily declined over the past few years, a trend that’s likely to continue.
Local councils can use their influence and business contacts to try to influence banks or alternative providers to remain or set up in affected communities.
But the banks’ gradual retreat from a physical presence in many small communities further underlines the importance of equitable telecommunications access for all Australians, which is why we’re calling for the continued funding of the Commonwealth’s Regional Connectivity Program, at a rate of $55 million over the next four years.
Thanks to the Hon Kon Vatskalis and Cr Peter Clee for the opportunity last week to brief delegates at LGANT’s annual conference on ALGA’s federal election priorities.
While it’s likely the election won’t be called until early next year, we’ve already started to highlight opportunities for an incoming Federal Government to work with us to ensure local communities aren’t left behind in our national recovery.
This has included the role that increased Financial Assistance Grants could play in addressing our nation’s skills shortage, as well as how we can help the Federal Government deliver on its net-zero commitments.