Nicki Hutley: financially engineering thriving, vibrant communities

Commonwealth and state governments have racked up vast deficits responding to the Covid-19 crisis – and while local government is not in the same world of financial pain, its future sustainability is just cause for concern.

How the sector deals with Covid-19 and the impacts of bushfire and drought while continuing to deliver the services and infrastructure their communities expect will be an important aspect of next month’s Special Local Roads and Transport Congress.

To help make sense of it all, ALGA has invited Nicki Hutley to address delegates.

Ms Hutley, a partner at Deloitte Access Economics, is a regular commentator on economic and financial issues in the media, including as a regular panellist on “The Drum” and “The Project”.

With her skills in economic modelling and analysis, she brings a unique perspective to issues like urban renewal, social and economic infrastructure investment, affordable housing, climate mitigation and adaptation, and social impact investing.

Local government is committed to helping local communities recover from bushfires, to building resilience, and to improving freight and supply chain outcomes on local roads – all of them expensive undertakings

Councils provide extensive levels of service and local infrastructure but do so with just 3.6 percent of the nation’s tax revenue.

Scope for raising rates or service charge is limited – and the level of future grants from other levels of government is by no means guaranteed.

Ms Hutley’s approach is to ensure social and environmental considerations are captured alongside economic and financial returns.

“Australia presents a range of urban and regional development challenges, as well as real opportunities,” she says, adding that “Decisions that generate the best possible economic, social, environmental, and financial outcomes … require cross-agency, and often cross-government, collaboration.

“We also need to articulate clearly to communities why particular solutions have been chosen, and bring them on the journey.

“By applying rigorous analysis to policies, programs and projects, we can help decision-makers ensure that Australia’s cities and regions are thriving and vibrant [while] maximising their economic potential, addressing disadvantage, and improving living standards for all.”

The two-day “Roads, Regions, Resilience” Congress will be held in Wagga Wagga, NSW on 16-17 November. Register now for onsite or virtual attendance.