Roads and infrastructure in focus at 2023 National Congress

Boosting road and infrastructure funding to better support communities was a major focus of ALGA’s 2023 National Local Roads, Transport and Infrastructure Congress held in Canberra from 6-7 September.

Attended by around 250 delegates, including mayors, shire presidents, councillors and council works and engineering staff from across Australia, the Congress had a broad focus on community infrastructure, renewable energy deployment and integration, innovations in active transport, waste and recycling, affordable housing and resilient telecommunications.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott opened the event by highlighting the urgent need for more funding to repair roads and infrastructure in the wake of rising inflation and costs.

“The Roads to Recovery Program is incredibly important but it hasn’t increased in years, despite the growing costs of materials and labour.  So we’re advocating for an increase from $500 million to $800 million per year, that will support all councils to invest in our national local road network,” Cr Scott said.

Cr Scott said given councils manage one third of Australia’s public infrastructure assets, including roads and buildings, there was a major cost involved.

“As a sector of government that collects less than four percent of taxation, this has become a big challenge,” Cr Scott said.

“So ALGA continues to advocate for the extra support councils so desperately need, and this means restoring federal Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.”

Keynote speaker Natasha Bradshaw from the Grattan Institute also presented some preliminary results from new research into local road funding, which showed over the past 20 years, federal Financial Assistance Grants have failed to keep pace with the rising costs of constructing and maintaining local roads.

The findings also confirmed regional, rural and remote councils face additional and sometimes insurmountable difficulties, due to smaller rate payer bases, larger geographical areas, and less staff.

Federal Assistant Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Senator Carol Brown also discussed national transport infrastructure and the importance of road safety on Wednesday afternoon.

Delegates also heard from a panel of experts who discussed innovations and the latest trends in automated heavy vehicle access and data collection in Australia.

National Emergency Management Agency Coordinator-General Brendan Moon spoke about how councils can better navigate federal disaster recovery and response arrangements.