Key points for councils in infrastructure report

The recently released report from Infrastructure Australia, Future Cities: Planning for our growing population contains some key recommendations which are of considerable interest to Local Government.

The report’s first recommendation includes a call for “City Deals” in which “a series of locally and nationally informed objectives” are applied to a city and infrastructure payments are made contingent on meeting those objectives.

The second recommendation calls for Australia’s largest cities to “establish institutions and processes which enable metropolitan-scale governance.”

The report says there are a number of ways this could be achieved including “amalgamation of existing local councils” in order to “drive greater scale and efficiency”. The report states that “the large number of small local councils in many of our major cities has resulted in cases of fragmented governance and disjointed infrastructure and service delivery.”

Another possibility could be “the establishment of new metropolitan-focused agencies”.

But it is also recommended that governments “improve the quality and accessibility of community engagement at the strategic planning stage of a city’s development.” Such an approach would not only increase “the likelihood of support for change at local levels when it happens, but can also enhance the quality and impact of the outcomes delivered.”

So while there is cause for concern in the recommendation for council amalgamations, the call for community engagement at the local level would also provide an opportunity for input from Local Government.

There is a call for Australian governments to “increase investment in public transport infrastructure in cities experiencing significant population growth”. This includes “high capacity public transport trunk routes linking key centres and transport nodes” and regular and reliable feeder public transport routes, designed to connect to trunk routes.” Vehicles which carry a large number of people such as trams and buses should be given priority in the use of “road space”. Also walking and cycling should be encouraged as a “principal means of transport within centres and to transport nodes.”

Inter-governmental cooperation is stressed in road use, a key point for Local Government: “Australian governments should work together to progressively introduce a national heavy and light vehicle road user charging regime within 10 years.” The full report can be downloaded at the Infrastructure Australia website here.