Local councils around Australia appear to be the biggest winners from the recent infrastructure spending probe by the federal government with a doubling of the funding they get to fix their crumbling roads.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said the federal council funding pipeline, the Roads to Recovery program, will have its coffers gradually boosted from $500 million to $1 billion per year.
Black Spot funding will also increase from the current annual commitment of $110 million to $150 million per year.
This additional investment in the Commonwealth’s two cornerstone local roads investment programs will lead to safer and more productive roads across Australia, said King.
“We are also committed to delivering the funding local councils need to improve road safety and in a way that reduces the burden on them, allowing more money to be spent on projects and less on administration,” King said
Labor will also merge the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP) and the Bridges Renewal Program (BRP) into a new Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program.
The amount of funding for the new program will also gradually increase so that $200 million will be available per year, up from the current $150 million total annual investment in the HVSPP and the BRP, King added.
King said the changes have been recommended by the Independent Strategic Review of the Infrastructure Investment Program and the increases in funding will be phased in over the forward estimates to avoid putting pressure on inflation, supply costs and the construction labour market.
“We will be working with local government stakeholders in the lead-up to the budget to ensure that changes to the programs respond to their feedback and funding gets spent where it is needed more quickly.
“Regional road networks have been battered by severe weather events over the last few years. This funding will help councils to fix and maintain our roads.
“This investment will support regional communities, and help move freight to and from our rural production centres.”
The federal government’s announcement comes just days after think tank, the Gratton Institute, said local roads are only going to get worse without an extra $1 billion in funding each year.
Queensland’s Roads Minister Mark Bailey, however, said King’s latest announcement is “misleading”.
He said shifting the funding split for regional roads from 80/20 to 50/50 meant Queenslanders would be out of pocket $600 million to $1 billion each year.
“This is on top of cuts made elsewhere in Queensland such as the decision to cease funding projects including the Mooloolah River interchange, the cap on funding on road corridors and changes to funding splits on existing projects,” Bailey said.
“Queenslanders will therefore still be significantly worse off.”