Big wins for Local Government in 2007 Budget

The 2007 Budget held some welcome news for Local Government in Australia, with the Treasurer announcing more than $2.3 billion in direct funding for Local Government for 2007–2008, as well as additional funding into the future for programs that Local Government can access. There is a 3.9 per cent increase in Financial Assistance Grants to $1,749 million for 2007–2008, plus significant additional funding through the AusLink programs, such as Roads to Recovery and the Strategic Regional Program, the bushfire fighting programs, and regional programs such as Regional Partnerships.

AusLink funding

The Australian Government will invest $22.3 billion in Australia’s land transport system from 2009–2010 to 2013–2014 under AusLink 2. This is the biggest investment in land transport infrastructure that has ever been made by an Australian Government, and is 41 per cent larger than the current AusLink program. The Government is now investing $15.8 billion under the current program from 2004 to June 2009, including $250 million in extra funding that the Government will spend on AusLink Strategic Regional projects in 2006–2007.

AusLink Strategic Regional Program

In the first round of funding offered under the Strategic Regional Program, the Government received far more applications from local Councils than could be funded, so many important and valuable projects missed out on receiving support. As a result of the extra funding announced in the Budget, the Department of Transport and Regional Services has announced that funding offers in response to the applications received from Councils in the first round will now be able to be made. The Government is also investing an extra $300 million in the AusLink Strategic Regional program under AusLink 2, which will enable Councils to submit new applications for funding. This extra funding will be allocated in two $150 million funding rounds, which will be held in 2009–2010 and 2011–2012.

AusLink Roads to Recovery Program

The Government will continue the AusLink Roads to Recovery Program until June 2014 and will increase its funding by 14 per cent from June 2009. Roads to Recovery funding will increase from $307.5 million per year at present to $350 million per year from 2009–2010. The funding increase will help offset the rising cost of road construction, enabling Councils to fix more local roads.

AusLink Black Spot Program

The Government is also continuing the AusLink Black Spot Program until June 2014, with a 33 per cent increase in funding to $60 million a year from 2009–2010. The extension of this program will fix about 2,300 dangerous locations on Australia’s roads.

Regional programs

In 2007–2008, the Government will spend $72.4 million on the Regional Partnerships Program, $15.4 million on Sustainable Regions and $17.4 million on the Area Consultative Committee network. These programs are key in helping regional communities with economic development projects.

Bushfire programs

The Government will provide $41.2 million over the next four years to help the States and Territories lease aerial fire fighting equipment. On a yearly basis, spending on aerial fire fighting will increase by 25 per cent from its current level of $8 million in 2006–2007. Twenty million dollars will be spent over the next four years to extend the Bushfire Mitigation Program, which helps fund fire trails and other measures to make it quicker and easier for fire fighters to get bushfires under control. The program was originally due to end in
2006–2007 but will now continue until June 2011.

Environment programs

The Australian Government will provide $2 billion from 2008–09 to build on the achievements of the $3.1 billion Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) and
$1.4 billion for the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP).

Further details on the 2007 Budget are available from the website www.treasury.gov.au/contentitem.asp?NavId=012&ContentID=1256