CIVIC leaders from more than 36 regional capital cities across Australia including Tamworth used the recent local government conference in Canberra to press for more federal investment funding.
Mayors and GMs joined Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs for the second annual Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) alliance breakfast.
Alliance members told Mr Briggs they needed greater federal investment in Australia’s regional capitals, which continued to play a critical role in the country’s prosperity and liveability.
RCA chairman and Wagga Wagga mayor Rod Kendall said regional capitals generated more than 15 per cent of the nation’s GDP and were home to almost four million people, so they would continue to be crucial to Australia’s future prosperity.
“At our event we were represented by a captivating slice of the diversity and economic promise that regional capitals offer the nation. We also had the leaders who will champion, oversee and facilitate the next generation of wealth and opportunity in Australia,” Mr Kendall said.
“As a nation we know that our country is not made up of just major cities and mining towns.
“If we don’t want a two-speed economy, we need to be careful not to invest in major metropolitan and regional capitals as though it’s a two-sector nation.”
He said the minister and his colleagues were key to that outcome and welcomed his ministerial announcement of Black Spot roads funding.
The minister had confirmed investment in the program of $160 million a year (in 2015-17), with at least 50 per cent of the funding dedicated to regional Australia, and announced the criteria for grants that would help regional capitals access funding for their areas.
Australia’s regional capitals comprise 50 local government areas across every state and territory and cover 300,000 businesses, which account for 14 per cent of all businesses, a Regional Capitals Australia report has found.
“Despite their critical role, regional capitals are not recognised in any policy or national framework,” Mr Kendall said.
“This is a lost opportunity, especially in lifting Australia’s productivity. With the right investments, with the right infrastructure, regional capitals can achieve more.
“We are committed to working with government and ask that government, in turn, engages meaningfully with us to ensure that we get this right for the benefit of all Australians.”