Thursday, April 25, 2024

Infrastructure Australia pulls focus on building back better

Infrastructure Australia’s new focus on ensuring that all communities have access to quality infrastructure has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

The infrastructure advisory body has added 44 new proposals to its 2021 Infrastructure Priority List prioritising:

  • Improved digital connectivity;
  • Support for economic development in regional communities;
  • Road and freight connectivity to improve Australia’s export competitiveness;
  • Investing in new energy sources; and 
  • Better strategic planning for water capture, use and management.

ALGA President Linda Scott said the revised Infrastructure Priority List demonstrated an awareness that post-COVID-19 economic recovery needs to be about “building back better”.

“Our economic recovery strategy has to be predicated on more than just restoring what we had before the pandemic hit,” Cr Scott said.

“The economic and social impacts of COVID-19 have been significant, but the past 12 months have also shown there are alternative development pathways that are open to us as a nation.”

If Australia is to adapt successfully to the profound changes that have occurred since February 2020, it will have to become smarter, more productive, and more resilient.

“The way to do this is to invest in infrastructure that helps transform our transport, water, waste, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

“Broadband connectivity and digital technology advances mean we can direct economic growth away from congested cities and more towards the regions with their affordable housing and great quality of life,” she said.

“Even before the lockdowns and border closures, people were beginning to move from the cities to the regions – for lifestyle reasons but also because these areas also represent enormous business, agriculture and manufacturing potential.”

To capitalise on regional strengths, greater investment will be needed in freight network capability, telecommunications infrastructure, road network maintenance, water security, and community infrastructure.

Cr Scott said local government has a long history of partnering with the Commonwealth and states to roll out infrastructure programs, and the sector stands to help implement the proposals championed by Infrastructure Australia.

“Our on-the-ground connections and expertise mean councils are eager to, and will, play a vital role in the infrastructure provision that IA has identified as being critical to supporting economic recovery and building regional communities,” Cr Scott said.

Building back better also requires providing local communities with the social infrastructure they need to thrive and prosper now and in the future.

Cr Scott said ALGA will continue to advocate strongly for state and federal investment to assist local governments to provide the social infrastructure needed to build community resilience and cohesiveness, including public space, sport and recreation, and arts and culture.

“With smart, targeted investments that capitalise on our strengths and assets, we can grow our cities, towns and regions in ways that bolster long-term national prosperity,” Cr Scott said.

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