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|Editions > 1998 > September > Green||Sunday May 26, 2013 - Melbourne Time: 10:26:57|
Partnerships - a key to regional development
The Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, Alex Somlyay, has described partnerships with and between local governments as a key to the success of the Government's Regional Australia Strategy. The Commonwealth Government's Regional Australia Strategy, outlined in the 1998-99 Budget Statement, represents an unprecedented level of funding and assistance for regional Australia.
It draws together major funding initiatives which impact on regional Australia and highlights a more coordinated 'whole of government' approach to achieving sustainable growth in regional Australia.
"This Strategy is evidence of the Commonwealth Government's strengthened resolve to help regional areas reach their economic and social potential", Mr Somlyay said. "We want to raise community awareness of available assistance&endash;and in doing so improve regions' access to Commonwealth programmes and assistance.
"But we also want to ensure resources are more effectively directed to the needs of individual regions&endash;and this is where partnerships with local government become even more valuable.
"Local government knowledge and expertise is crucial to communities deriving maximum benefits from Commonwealth-funded projects".
At present, the Commonwealth provides around $1.2 billion each year in financial assistance grants to local government of which around two-thirds goes to regional and rural councils.
To ensure the Commonwealth remains aware of individual community needs, a major component of the Regional Australia Strategy will be a series of consultative regional forums, led by Mr Somlyay, to begin later this year.
Funding within the Regional Australia Strategy covers a wide range of projects&endash;from helping protect and conserve the environment, to improving infrastructure such as roads and telecommunications.
It provides funds for farmers and rural business development, and for projects of national importance. For example, local councils, community and business groups are encouraged to apply for assistance through Networking the Nation &endash; the $250 million Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund.
Regional communities are also encouraged to identify dangerous roads that qualify for funding under the Department of Transport and Regional Development's Black Spot Programme.
The Commonwealth has also allocated $676 million for the upkeep of National Highways, generating around 16,000 jobs mostly in the outback. An additional $250 million is earmarked for the upgrade of mainline rail tracks to revitalise rural industries heavily reliant on rail transport.
The $525 million rural policy package Agriculture &endash; Advancing Australia, is providing farmers and rural business people with direct assistance and incentives to better produce and market their goods and services.
"Local government can once again play a pivotal role in promulgating information and raising community awareness on how best they can access funding and training facilities," Mr Somlyay said.
The Natural Heritage Trust represents the biggest financial commitment to the environment by any government in Australia's history &endash; $1.25 billion.
The Trust will provide funding for five specific land management initiatives to conserve our native vegetation, land, biodiversity, water resources and seas.
"Local communities will have more opportunity than ever to participate in conservation by identifying sites for environmental action and applying for funding to conserve and better manage local areas," Mr Somlyay said.
"By working in partnership with other key agents in economic development, particularly local government, the Commonwealth aims to ensure that regional Australia maximises its economic and social development."
If you would like further information on any of these programmes, please contact 1800 026 222.
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