Regional capitals should get more federal funding, senate inquiry reveals

CHANGE NEEDED: Col Murray says the report articulated the frustration of many rural cities. Photo: Gareth Gardner 090816GGA01

CHANGE NEEDED: Col Murray says the report articulated the frustration of many rural cities. Photo: Gareth Gardner 090816GGA01

ONE in three Australians live in, or around, a regional capital city, but when it comes to federal government funding the city capitals get the lion’s share.

A senate inquiry into the future role and contribution of regional capitals has recommended a comprehensive review of the way the government funds projects in the bush – news Tamworth Regional Council mayor Col Murray has welcomed, with open arms.

Cr Murray, who also serves as Regional Capitals Australia deputy chair, said the report highlighted the need to create a better funding model for regional Australia.

“Four million people live in regional capitals and another four million live in areas serviced by those capitals,” Cr Murray told The Leader.

“We accept capital cities are critically important, but the regional cities are also important.

“We see so many of these metropolitan projects, like the Westconnex or the Badgerys Creek airport, which talk about billions and billions of dollars. In the regional cities, when it comes to infrastructure, we struggle to have a conversation in the millions of dollars.

“We are not suggesting we get all the money, but we should have our equitable share.”

Cr Murray said the government had already taken some steps towards a fair distribution of funding with the Building Better Regions fund, which was recently announced by New England MP Barnaby Joyce.

The $297m pool of money is only for rural, regional and remote communities.

Cr Murray said council was eyeing off some of the money to help it get through its critical infrastructure list.

“Because we are not competing against the big cities, it’s a more level playing field,” he said.

“It really is significant for regional areas and we’ve been getting great support from the National party.”

The senate inquiry also recommended the federal government work with state governments and regional capitals to develop a national strategy for regional capitals, including a target population migration from capital cities to regional ones.

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