LOCAL government is marshalling its forces to combat a projected state and federal funding shortfall should natural disasters hit their communities this summer.
The Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference was told in Mackay this week that Productivity Commission recommendations to halve federal government contributions to natural disaster relief arrangements could leave local government to foot more of the bill for restoration of public assets.
"If these recommendations were in place, the money available after the latest round would have fallen short by $1 billion," LGAQ president Margaret de Wit said.
"It would leave communities with damaged infrastructure that would take years to fix, and has the potential to recast local government finances for a generation or more."
The controversial decision by the state government earlier this year to "refocus" its Royalties for the Regions program to allow not only all councils but state government agencies to bid for program funds was another of the hot topics at the conference.
Cr de Wit told 600 delegates and observers from around the state that a dedicated program with at least $200 million a year to invest in vital community infrastructure was one of the big-ticket items in the 10 Point Policy Plan that would spearhead its campaign agenda in the lead-up to the state election.
It comes on top of motions, mostly from north-western shires, for the program to revert to its original plan under which 14 councils benefited from having the royalty revenue generated in their area, and for 5 per cent of revenue to be disbursed to councils. At the time of the announcement of the changes to the Royalties for the Regions, Cr de Wit described them as a complete contradiction of the program's original intent of a carefully targeted fund for the councils most impacted by the rapid growth of the resources industry.
In order to address the concerns over financial sustainability, LGAQ has released a Better Councils Better Communities project to encourage its 77 councils to provide value for money and put them front and centre of ratepayers through an advertising campaign.
Originally devised for the referendum to include local government in the constitution, which was dumped, the image campaign will tell Queenslanders they will enjoy improved productivity from their councils. This is expected to happen by using a range of data to benchmark performance against other councils and the local government sector as a whole.
"It is about driving a culture of high performance to ensure efficient and effective service delivery to our communities," Cr de Wit said.