NSW Business Chamber Northern Rivers has welcomed the Federal Government’s $300 million Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program to boost local economic development and support jobs.

The $300 million will be delivered by 30 June 2009 and is designed help stimulate local economies through quick infrastructure investment in community projects.

The package will be delivered as follows:

$250 million

  • Each Council in NSW will  receive a minimum payment of $100,000;
  • Councils above 30,000 people in areas of high growth, as classified by the State and Territory local government grant system, will receive an additional $300,000 growth component;
  • Allocations would range from $100,000 for councils with fewer than 5000 people to $2.9 million for the largest council based on population growth and need;
  • Councils would be required to submit proposals that meet the program’s guidelines in order to claim their allocation.

$50 million

  • $50 million strategic projects fund for larger-scale community infrastructure to help deliver an additional injection of investment in communities;
  • This will be competitive, application-based, accountable and open to only those projects seeking a minimum Commonwealth contribution of $2 million.

“The Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program will provide a shot in the arm for the local economy,” said Sharon Cadwallader, NSW Business Chamber Northern Rivers Regional Manager.

“The package will be especially welcomed in regional areas as we are usually the first to feel the pressure from an economic slowdown and the pressure that is building on unemployment to rise.

“We need to see a boost in confidence in the local community if we are to steady the economy and ride out the tough times ahead.

“This package along with the previous stimulus packages announced by the Federal Government should see an influx of cash into the local economy and hopefully a boost in confidence along with it.

“Additional infrastructure spending on community assets such as libraries, community halls, leisure and sporting facilities should have a multiplier effect as pay packets are spent in local economies.”

Ms Cadwallader said that the Federal Government needed to be careful in its rush to fund infrastructure projects that the package was spent on legitimate projects that would benefit local communities.

“The last thing we want to see is a whole bunch of ‘bridges to nowhere’ popping up across Australia in a bid to get this money spent,” said Ms Cadwallader.

“There will need to be a strict guideline process that ensures the local economy is getting the right bang for the taxpayer’s buck.”

Ms Cadwallader said that while this initiative addressed the current need to stimulate the economy, the business community would like to see a review of the role of local government in encouraging business and employment growth, and to help identify how to make local government viable.