Rollout of $800 million investment in local communities begins

Cairns Regional Council

Through the Community Infrastrcuture Program Cairns Regional Council has a number of projects under way, including the refurbishment of the living quarters at Yorkeys Knob Caretakers Cottage. The building was deteriorating and being vandalised (left). The new refurbishment (right) will allow the caretaker to live on site and provide access to users groups for the Yorkeys Knob Community Hall and tennis courts, including upkeep of lawns and reporting to Council on any issues such as vandalism on the grounds. Council has recently renovated the kitchen with new cupboards, benches and appliances, renovated the bathroom, installed inverter split systems for three bedrooms and rescrewed the tin roof. It is approximately 85% complete. Council resolved to upgrade and maintain the cottage. Refurbishments and upgrades were necessary for safety and sustainability of the building.

Mackay Regional Council

Recently completed shade structures were erected over one of Mackay Regional Council’s existing playgrounds (John Breen Park in North Mackay). While this project was undertaken by Council as part of its normal capital works program associated with park and playground upgrades, it illustrates the type of works that are planned to be undertaken over the next six months as part of Council’s program for the provision of shade facilities over another 29 playgrounds across the entire region, funded under the Federal Government’s Community Infrastructure Program (see article on page 19) .

Announcements of funding approvals under the Federal Government’s $800 million Community Infrastructure Program have commenced.

This program has two components:

Under the $250 million component, each council receives a minimum $100,000, with the remainder divided up across all councils based on a formula that recognises need and population growth.

The announcement of the Community Infrastructure Program made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the inaugural meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government last November originally included an extra $50 million, to be allocated though a competitive grant process, for larger scale local projects valued at $2 million or more. This covers projects such as new sports stadiums, entertainment precincts and cultural centres.

Under the Government’s more recent stimulus package, these competitive grants have been increased to $550 million.

Following the PricewaterhouseCoopers report in 2006, which estimated a $1.1 billion annual underspend in the renewal of community infrastructure by Local Government, the
Australian Local Government Association set up its Community Infrastructure Ideas Register.

Councils were invited to put forward urgently needed local projects. The result was a raft of projects ready to go and able to be completed by the required date of 30 September 2009.

Approvals for projects under the $250 million component of the Community Infrastructure Program commenced in February.

“More than 3,600 projects have been submitted under the first round of the Community Infrastructure Program and the Rudd Government is getting on with the job of rolling out projects in local communities,” said Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese.

“This is the single largest investment in local infrastructure in Australia’s history. The Community Infrastructure Program is aimed squarely at stimulating local economies and helping communities respond to the global financial crisis.

“Investing in local projects that are ready to go is a great way to generate construction activity. It will also deliver much needed infrastructure to improve the quality of life in local communities.

“The Rudd Government is determined to act decisively with local communities to support jobs and improve the quality of local infrastructure.”

The Government recently signed off on $659,000 to build a stormwater retention basin, which will help contain water overflow during flash flooding in Broken Hill. Broken Hill City Council will be funded to build a stormwater retention basin at the intersection of Mercury and Graphite Streets – in line with the 2006 Broken Hill Urban Stormwater Master Plan. 

“I am pleased to be able to approve funding so quickly for Broken Hill,” Minister Albanese said.  “Without Federal funding, projects like this would have remained in the‘too-hard’ basket.”

In Queensland, Cairns Regional Council has received approval for $899,000 for ready to go local infrastructure projects. These projects include: