The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has warned that any cuts to approved infrastructure projects following the Federal Government’s Infrastructure Investment Program (IIP) review would be devastating for financially strained councils and communities.
The 90-day independent IIP review was announced by the Federal Government in May to ensure the existing pipeline was “fit for purpose” and “focused on projects which improve long-term productivity, supply chains and economic growth in our cities and regions”.
President, Sunshine Coast Mayor, Mark Jamieson said the LGAQ and member councils feared as many as 131 critical projects across Queensland could be under threat following the review.
Mayor Jamieson said infrastructure development stimulates economic growth by creating jobs, attracting investment and boosting productivity.
“There are better ways to manage infrastructure cost pressures than simply cutting projects – critical projects that are needed to maintain or enhance the liveability of local communities in a growing state like Queensland,” he said.
“In many cases, councils have already planned and budgeted for the construction of these projects – many of which are listed in the Federal Government’s budget.
“While it is understandable for new projects to have a different set of assessment criteria, applying that retrospectively to existing projects is shifting the goalposts and will have a major impact on the future liveability of rural and regional Queensland communities.
“The LGAQ is strongly opposed to the cancellation or postponement of any pipeline projects, as this action would simply worsen the already challenging financial situation faced by vulnerable councils in Queensland.
“Such a proposition is entirely unacceptable to both the LGAQ and its member councils.”
According to a recent Queensland Audit Office report, 46 Queensland councils were at moderate to high risk of being financially unsustainable, with further pressure from costs being shifted to councils from other levels of government and the private sector, he said.
LGAQ research has revealed that cost-shifting has soared 378% in the past two decades, as reported by councils.
Mayor Jamieson said Queensland communities deserved to have already-committed infrastructure projects delivered and for the Federal Government to also restore Financial Assistance Grants from their current 0.5% of taxation revenue to their previous 1%.
The vast majority of Queensland projects to be assessed by the IIP Review are essential upgrades to local road networks to improve safety, maintenance and durability.
More than 35% of every kilometre travelled in Australia is estimated to be on local roads, however, unlike the Federal and State governments, councils have no dedicated means of raising revenue for road construction and maintenance, such as user, registration or other transport fees, Mayor Jamieson said.