THE AUSTRALIAN Local Government Association (ALGA) Board met with Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Minister John McVeigh Parliament House in Canberra this week.
It was Minister McVeigh’s first opportunity to meet the ALGA Board – led by President and City of Prospect Mayor David O’Loughlin – and to hear Local Government’s priorities for service delivery in cities, regional towns and remote shires.
The financial stability of Local Government was a key aspect of the talks, along with the ability of councils to provide and maintain quality infrastructure, especially local roads.
The ALGA delegation reiterated to Minister McVeigh that better communications and ensuring local communities could embrace the “digital transformation’’ was also vital – as were better health services and the viability of indigenous councils, particularly for their role in providing housing solutions in remote communities.
Dr McVeigh, a former Toowoomba councillor and Queensland State Government minister, made clear his view clear that Local Government was the level of government closest to the people.
“I know which level is the one people rely on most,” he said. “I understand the challenges you all face with financial stability … I’m regularly reminded of that by my local mayor, Paul Antonio.”
Dr McVeigh agreed with Mayor O’Loughlin that the ability to deliver and maintain high quality infrastructure and better digital communications were vital, and he cited the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing as an example of a project where all three levels of government are working together to transform a region.
Dr McVeigh also told the Board he was focussed on the timely delivery of vital grant programs, including the Regional Jobs and Investment Package and the $272 million Regional Growth Fund – as well as continuing to deliver local infrastructure through the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).
“I’m focussed on speeding up the process. I’m working on finalising the Regional Growth Fund Guidelines shortly, and I will be delivering successful BBRF projects toward the middle of the year,” he said.
Dr McVeigh told the ALGA Board he was keen to establish stronger relations through direct contact with councils across all states and territories.
Wherever possible when travelling, he said he would aim to meet directly with majors and councillors to hear first-hand their issues.
Dr McVeigh reassured the Board that he would be working closely with his ministerial colleagues to help councils provide the services and facilities their residents needed.