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Report on performance

5. Outcome 3 - Regional Development and Local Government

Output 3.1.1 - Regional development policy and programs

Highlights

In 2008-09, the Department supported the sustainable development of regional and rural communities by promoting a whole-of-government approach in regional policies and through major initiatives in community infrastructure.

The programs administered by the Department achieved strong results, for example:

  • As at 30 June 2009, 39 projects had been contracted under the $176 million Better Regions program to implement projects identified by local communities as priority investments for their regions; and
  • the Remote Air Services Subsidy funded the carriage of 3,186 passengers, 38,752 kilograms of freight and 180,936 kilograms of mail to 242 communities in remote Australia.

Significant progress was made towards implementing the Regional Development Australia initiative. Memorandums of understanding were signed between the Australian Government and nearly all the state and territory governments, and arrangements to establish Regional Development Australia committees are well underway.

The Regional Development Council agreed to closer alignment and integration of regional development activities and structures between all three levels of government. The first fruits of this new approach are the new integrated regional development organisations being established in many states through Regional Development Australia.

The Department participated in Territorial Policy Development Meetings of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to discuss international trends in regional policy, and contributed to OECD Rural Policy Reviews for Canada and China. The Department provided support to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government when he attended the OECD Ministerial Meeting in Paris in March 2009.

The Department also played a key role in supporting the Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia the Hon Gary Gray AO MP, to produce, with the Western Australian Government, a $195 million East Kimberley Development Package, to promote the social and economic development of the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Overview

Output 3.1.1 is delivered through the work of the Local Government and Regional Development and Office of Northern Australia divisions which conduct activities with a regional focus, including stakeholder consultation and engagement, research, policy development and program delivery. The output included the following administered programs:

  • Better Regions;
  • East Kimberly Development Package1;
  • Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal;
  • Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants;
  • Regional Development Australia committees;
  • Regional Partnerships;
  • Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme; and
  • Sustainable Regions.
  • The budget and actual expenditure for each administered program is listed in Appendix A.

1 This administered program was introduced in the 2008-09 Supplementary Additional Estimates Statements No. 2.

Summary of performance

Table 5.1 summarises the Department's results in delivering Output 3.1.1, against the key performance indicators and targets published in the 2008-09 PBS.

Table 5.1 Summary of performance - Output 3.1.1

Key performance indicator Target Result
Outputs

New operational funding contracts between the Department and RDA developed and executed

31 December 2008.

Operational funding contracts between the Department and RDA are being developed. These contracts will be executed by the Department and RDA committees as they are established.

RDA established and operational

1 January 2009.

Memorandums of understanding (MOUs) have been signed by the Australian Government and state and territory governments except in Western Australia. Expression of interest processes for committee membership were undertaken; committee chairs and deputy chairs were announced in some states. Committee formation documents were developed, including incorporation association constitutions.

Priority issues affecting major projects and sustainable development in Northern Australia identified through consultation

30 June 2009.1

Ongoing task - including through the East Kimberley Development Package, the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce and extensive consultation with Northern Australia.

First taskforce progress report delivered to Government

By 30 September 2008.2

The taskforce is an independent body for which the Department provides a secretariat.

The mid term report was published in February 2009.

Taskforce report on the investigation of further land and water development in Northern Australia delivered to Government

By 30 June 2009.3

The taskforce is an independent body for which the Department provides a secretariat.

1 This date was incorrectly reported in the 2008-09 PBS as 30 June 2008.
2 The original target for the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce was 30 September 2008. The government announced an overhaul of the taskforce terms of reference and membership on 26 September 2008, with a revised midterm target date of end 2008.
3 The original target was 30 June 2009. Following the September 2008 overhaul of the taskforce, the target was changed to December 2009.

Table 5.2 provides a summary of the results achieved by each of the programs administered under Output 3.1.1 against the key performance and targets published in the 2008-09 PBS.

Table 5.2 Summary of performance - Output 3.1.1 administered programs

Key performance indicators and targets
Applicable administered program Key performance indicator
Target

All programs

Efficient and effective management of administered programs

Programs are administered in accordance with relevant legislation, published guidelines and ANAO guidance.

All programs

Programs support regional development including through:

  • funding for projects that partner with communities, government and business; and
  • continuation of air services to identified areas

Projects are completed.

All identified partners have contributed as agreed.

Projects are sustainable.

Identified air services are maintained.

Results
Administered program Result

Better Regions

In 2008-09, the Department contracted 39 projects of which three were completed. At 30 June 2009, a total of 86 Better Regions projects had been approved for funding under the four-year program.

East Kimberley Development Package

National Partnership agreement was signed allocating funds to 27 social infrastructure projects.

Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal

The Department assisted the foundation to provide small grants to community organisations in regional and rural Australia, In accordance with its deed of agreement.

Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants

The Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants program guidelines address three strategic priorities: Australian Government regional priorities; small local government and community support; and regional development conference support.

In 2008-09, the program funded seven projects.

Regional Development Australia committees

The Department provided funding to 54 Area Consultative Committees in accordance with their Operational Funding Agreements (which sets out the performance and financial obligations) and the published Area Consultative Committee Handbook.

Regional Partnerships

Contracts were negotiated for 56 projects approved but not contracted at the time of the 2008-09 Budget decision to close the program. Of the 1,553 contracted projects the Department had finalised 1,427 projects by 30 June 2009.

The Department has commenced winding down the program, which ends on 30 June 2010.

Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme

The Scheme provided 242 remote and isolated communities across ten geographical regions with access to a regular air service for the carriage of passengers and goods including medicines, fresh food and educational materials. Air operator arrangements were renewed to 2011, through an open tender process.

Sustainable Regions

The Sustainable Regions program, which assisted 10 regional communities to address issues they had identified, has closed. All 266 projects were finalised by 30 June 2009.

Detailed report on performance

The following report is against the headings from the applicable output from the 2008-09 PBS. Please note that for this output, the section 'VI Other activities' has been added to address the provision of advice to government on regional issues and the introduction of the Jobs Fund.

I    Supporting sustainable development

Through engagement with governments, industry and communities, the Department developed policy initiatives and implemented government programs tailored to support sustainable regional economic and social development.

Better Regions

The Department managed the Better Regions program to fund projects that that had been identified by local communities across Regional Australia as priority investments for their region such as revitalised main streets, multipurpose community and resource centres and major sport and recreational venues. 

At 30 June 2009, there were 86 Better Regions projects approved for release of funding by the government, of which the Department had contracted 38 projects and one project was complete.

Projects varied from providing a $10 million contribution to the construction of temporary and permanent infrastructure, including pit facilities to support the establishment of the V8 supercar race in Townsville, to providing a $125,000 contribution to the upgrade of the Grafton livestock saleyards.

In implementing the Better Regions program the Department developed processes and procedures consistent with the requirements of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the ANAO Better Practice Guide.

Successful applicants were required to enter into a legally enforceable funding agreement with the Australian Government. The funding agreement sets out the terms and conditions for the provision of funding and includes a negotiated schedule of payments dependent on the delivery of agreed milestones and reports.

Regional Partnerships

The Department continued to manage projects under the Regional Partnerships program. This included 1,497 projects that were contracted when the 2008-09 Budget announced that the program would close, and 56 projects that received funding through the government's decision to support a number of projects, proposed by local government and not-for-profit organisations, that had been approved but not contracted when the program's closure was announced. In 2008-09, the Department reviewed the remaining projects and developed a strategy to finalise the program by 30 June 2010.

Sustainable Regions

The Department sucessfully managed the finalisation of all remaining Sustainable Regions projects by 30 June 2009. The Sustainable Regions program, which commenced in August 2001 and was closed to new applications in May 2008, was designed to offer a planned and integrated approach to structural adjustment in identified regions. Over the life of the program, 280 projects were contracted at a total approved cost of $111 million.

Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal

In accordance with its deed of agreement, the Department assisted the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to provide small grants to community organisations in regional and rural Australia.  These grants included Back to School vouchers redeemable for items such as school uniforms, clothing, school bags and stationery, MeChange grant funding to help tackle obesity and build a healthier future for communities and Helping Hands grants to assist small rural communities to implement projects that will ensure their economic sustainability.

Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme

The Department managed the Remote Air Services Subsidy scheme, to make passenger transport, goods delivery and other services accessible to Australians who live in remote areas and would otherwise have no regular access to transport.

Subsidised weekly passenger and freight services were provided to 242 remote communities in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In total, 3,186 passengers travelled and 38,752 kilograms of freight and 180,936 kilograms of mail were delivered. An open tender process to renew air operator arrangements under the scheme was finalised; contracts for eight of the 10 subsidised regions were put in place
until 2011.

II    Research to inform policy development

The Department administered Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants to support research into the social and economic conditions and other issues affecting Australia's regions, to inform policy development. The seven projects that received funding in 2008-09 included two nationally and one internationally recognised conferences, and research addressing regional priorities, such as a regional ports project, regional child health strategies and support for the Regional Partnerships program.

III    Regional engagement: Regional Development Australia

Through a range of regional development and local government initiatives, the Department worked side-by-side with communities, regions and local government to deliver sustainable economic development and social participation, improve access to services, and plan for sustainable futures.

In particular, the Department was responsible for implementing Regional Development Australia (RDA), a new national network of regional communities that brings together all levels of government to improve the coordination of initiatives to enhance the development of regional Australia, ensuring that there is effective engagement with local communities. In 2008-09, the Department signed MOUs to implement the initiative with all state and territory governments except the Government of Western Australia, in consultation with the local government sector.

Expression of interest processes for committee membership were undertaken, and committee chairs and deputy chairs were announced in some states. Committee formation documents were developed, including incorporation association constitutions.

In early 2009, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, sought assistance from the Department to implement the Backing Indigenous Ability Telephones Program. Under the program, the Australian Government is funding the installation of publicly accessible community telephone services to nominated remote Indigenous communities with populations below 50. The Department employed the Area Consultative Committee network to seek nominations for telephone locations.

IV    Office of Northern Australia

The Department's Office of Northern Australia (ONA) played a key role in supporting the Hon Gary Gray AO MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia, in developing the $195 million East Kimberley Development Package announced by the Prime Minister in December 2008. The Department prepared a comprehensive report proposing the detail of the package, drawing on extensive liaison with other Australian Government and Western Australian Government agencies and East Kimberley stakeholders. The office also coordinated arrangements to deliver the first payment to the Western Australian Government in June 2009 to enable the package to proceed.

The Department supports and advises the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce, a high-level group of independent experts from relevant backgrounds such as Indigenous business, science, conservation, agriculture, and the minerals and energy resource industries. The taskforce has been charged with providing the government with a final report, by December 2009, that provides a better understanding of:

  • opportunities for new sustainable economic development in the north, based on water resource availability; and
  • the potential impact of possible development on the underlying water balance and water quality, and on the natural environment, existing water users and the broader community.

V    Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program

The Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program (RLCIP) was reported in the 2008-09 PBS as component V of Output 3.1.1. The funding for the program was announced at the Australian Council of Local Government in November 2008 with the funding detailed in Output 3.2.1 of the 2008-09 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements (PAES).

VI    Other activities

In 2008-09, the Department consulted widely, across Australia and overseas, to provide informed advice to the Australian Government on issues affecting Australia's regions. The Department's role in program delivery expanded during the year, with the introduction of the Jobs Fund.

The Department continued to provide advice to Australian Government agencies about the requirements for Regional Australia Statements for cabinet submissions.

Jobs Fund

The Department played a significant role in designing and establishing the Jobs Fund, a $650 million initiative to create jobs and develop skills through projects that build infrastructure and social capital in local communities. The Department is responsible for two components of the Jobs Fund, the $40 million National Bike Paths Projects and $150 million Infrastructure Employment Projects, to be implemented in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

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