$500 million to councils for community roads and facilities

$500 million to councils for community roads and facilities

Politics
Deputy PM Michael McCormack said money for council projects would flow from July 1. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Deputy PM Michael McCormack said money for council projects would flow from July 1. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

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New program to improve council roads, parks and playgrounds.

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The government has set up a new $500 million "local roads and community infrastructure" program to fund projects throughout the country.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said councils were invited to put projects forward and money would flow from July 1.

Roads projects should be focused on safety, and could include traffic signs, street lighting, ridges and tunnels, heavy traffic rest areas, and extra road and path maintenance.

The community infrastructure part of the program would fund council-owed assets available to the public.

They included car parks for sportsgrounds, bike paths, picnic shelters, barbecue areas, closed-circuit TV, painting and other maintenance, fencing, landscaping, tree planting and beautification of roundabouts, playgrounds and skateparks.

The $500 million program was new but modelled on the Roads to Recovery program, Mr McCormack said.

The government would also bring forward $1.3 billion of its funding to councils. The 2020-21 Financial Assistance Grant money would be paid early to help councils accelerate projects and support local communities.

The government did something similar last year, bringing forward $1.3 billion of the 2019-20 funding to June 2019.

Local Government Minister Mark Coulton said the money announced on Friday came on top of $1.2 billion being distributed for projects and infrastructure in regional communities through other programs including drought and bushfire relief.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding boost would help councils accelerate priority projects to employ locally and support local business.

"These projects will cut travel times, make our communities safer and upgrade the facilities we all enjoy while also getting more people into jobs," he said.

"We know this is going to be vital support, particularly for councils that have faced the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19."

The government has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into regional areas in recent months to help first with drought, then with bushfires. In January, Mr Morrison, determined to get some money out quickly, handed 42 councils $1 million each to spend as they saw fit.

The government also set up a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund. At the beginning of March, coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency Andrew Colvin said $205 million has been paid from the fund, with another $554 million allocated.

On top of that, the government had paid disaster recovery allowances and grants.

Submissions close to the Senate inquiry into lessons learned from the bushfires on Friday.

Separately, hearings begin on Monday in the Royal commission into the bushfires. The first round of hearings, in Canberra, will focus on climate change and disaster risks, the impact of the fires on communities, and the responsibilities of the Commonwealth in natural disasters.

The story $500 million to councils for community roads and facilities first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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