Local Infrastructure Vital for Queensland’s Future
Grassroots Blueprint and Community Collaboration Will Drive Regional Growth
A focus on local infrastructure is critical to boost ailing regional Queensland communities faced with shrinking budgets and years of decline, with infrastructure again under the spotlight this month from private sector experts and in announcements from the Queensland government.
Regional communities are failing to capitalise on their enormous economic, social and lifestyle potential, according to Robert Prestipino, founder of Queensland regional growth consultancy Vital Places. “Most regional communities are withering from the lack of growth, while communities in the booming resource areas are being weakened by too much unplanned growth.“
“Each town and community has its place in Queensland’s regional future and successful infrastructure projects need to be more than isolated road upgrades, streetscaping or community centres. We need to make smarter use of our infrastructure projects while protecting each community‘s local culture and special identity. Our approach to growth should have grassroots support, use existing budgets in smarter ways and attract more government and private sector investment.”
Mr Prestipino said a regional strategy of local infrastructure initiatives would provide a powerful catalyst for economic growth and the creation of well-paid local jobs and that investment in regional infrastructure would inevitably be challenged by the StateGovernment's response to its projected $95 billion debt. “Now local government community plans have been completed, it’s time for leadership action, not more consultation. The community has clearly articulated its aspirations, so as local leaders it's time for us to act and help groups collaborate so we can secure our children‘s future in regional Australia.“
Local government holds the key to the State’s future success
Speaking at the Local Government Association of Queensland's Civic Leaders Forum on on 6 July, Local Government Minister David Crisafulli urged councils to find new ways to fund community infrastructure and services in the face of Queensland's crippling debt, saying they must reinvent themselves to survive.
"We need to energise this state from the grassroots up. Councils must build new partnerships with the private sector to deliver significant community infrastructure and tap into additional revenue sources.The one thing that nearly all councils have in abundance is land. Whether it's regional councils with land to lease for agriculture or a coastal council that wants to turn a car park into a mixed-use site, the ability to achieve does not solely depend on Government funding.Mr Crisafulli said local government holds the key to the State's future success and vowed to work with councils to ensure all Queenslanders share in a new era of prosperity.
Royalties to the Regions Program announced by Local Government Minister
Regional communities under enormous strain from the mining boom will receive a $495 million boost under the Royalties to the Regions program announced by the government on 3 July, which will return millions of dollars to 14 regional councils to help provide vital infrastructure. Mr Crisafulli said the government wants to make sure all Queenslanders share in the mining boom, as some councils struggle to keep pace with unprecedented demand for services and infrastructure.
“This fund will help them start to turn that around. Mining should leave a lasting legacy for Queensland: strong, well-built and well-serviced communities. Resource communities should be a place where workers can raise their families and small business can prosper."
Councils eligible to apply for Royalties to the Regions funding from September this year will be asked to work with their community, industry and other regional groups to prioritise projects that best meet their local needs. Applications for the first round of funding will be called for in September, with $60 million available in 2012/13 and the first round of successful projects announced in early 2013.
Three-step action plan needed for new outcomes
Mr Prestipino said a three-step action plan was needed to fast track delivery of the best regional infrastructure and attract much-needed funding:
•Scanning existing proposals for the best growth options
•Developing the best options with local leaders, and
•Innovative marketing to secure new investment partners.
“New outcomes need new actions. Without a pragmatic new plan, local communities are in danger of making decisions based on outdated information and processes. The way forward is to introduce a network of public infrastructure projects across regional areas which include catalyst projects within regional cities as well as neighbouring townships and communities“.
Mr Prestipino‘s Toowoomba-based business developed the multi-award winning ‘Our Town Our Future‘ – Revitalisation Strategy for Ingham, on behalf of Hinchinbrook Shire Council. The strategy secured over $10 million of State and Federal grants to deliver the first stage of the shire's vision, making the project one of the most successful funding collaborations for a small Queensland regional community.
For more than 25 years Robert Prestipino has worked with governments, communities and local businesses to develop innovative solutions to regional challenges. He is a qualified urban designer, registered landscape architect and corporate member of the Planning Institute of Australia. He is also a member of Economic Development Australia and a Local Ecommerce Marketer.Since founding Vital Places in 1996, the business has guided more than 40 town centre improvement projects in local communities around Queensland. www.vitalplaces.com.au