Regional development and local government

Program 3.1-Regional development (continued)

Detailed report on performance

The following report is against the headings from the applicable output from the 2009–10 PBS.

I. Support for sustainable development

Better Regions

In 2007 the Australian Government committed to fund certain projects that communities had identified as priority investments for their regions. The Department manages the delivery of those projects, including conducting risk assessments and contracting, through the Better Regions program.

At 30 June 2010:

  • all 106 Better Regions projects had been approved for funding
  • 100 projects had been contracted
  • 23 projects had been completed, and
  • 10 projects had completed construction and were waiting for final reports and audits.

The support for completed projects varied from a $2.0 million contribution to the upgrade of an indoor sports centre to cater for recreational and cultural activities in Yamba, New South Wales, to a $40,000 contribution to the purchase and installation of a rainwater tank for a community centre in Runcorn, Queensland.

To deliver the program, the Department developed processes and procedures consistent with the requirements of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Better Practice Guide and the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines. The ANAO's Implementing Better Practice Grants Administration report, published in June 2010, referred to the Better Regions program as a good example of establishing a grant program for implementing election commitments.

Regional Partnerships

The Regional Partnerships program was closed to new and unapproved projects in the May 2008 Budget. Over the life of the program 1,553 projects were approved for funding. The Department continues to manage Regional Partnerships projects, working closely with the funding recipients to ensure that projects are finalised as soon as possible.

The Department finalised 66 Regional Partnerships projects in 2009–10. Fourteen projects remain and will be finalised by 30 June 2011. The program was expected to be finalised by 30 June 2010; however, in 2009–10 a small number of projects were delayed by factors outside the funding recipients' control.

Jobs Fund initiative

The Department played a key role in delivering the Jobs Fund, a $650.0 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 $40.0 million investment in bike paths; and $150.0 million investment in Infrastructure Employment Projects.

Bike Paths

The Department assessed more than 250 applications for Bike Path projects, of which 173 were approved for funding. A total of 167 of the approved projects were contracted, for $36.8 million. These projects are expected to generate approximately 1,860 long-term and short-term jobs, as well as work experience opportunities and apprenticeships.

By 30 June 2010, 75 projects had completed construction. Some projects were delayed due to factors outside the funding recipients' control, such as adverse weather conditions or delays in obtaining planning approval. The remaining projects are expected to be finalised by 30 June 2011.

Support provided for bike path projects varied from a $2.0 million contribution to the renewal of the 15.5 kilometre Fernleigh Track in Newcastle, New South Wales, to a $10,500 contribution to the construction of a bicycle lane on Manton Street in Hindmarsh, South Australia. Both projects are expected to create a significant number of long-term and short-term jobs.

Infrastructure Employment Projects

The Department implemented the Infrastructure Employment Projects program to support jobs through major infrastructure projects. The employment opportunities include long-term and short-term positions as well as work experience opportunities and apprenticeships. Projects under the program are initiated by the Australian Government.

At 30 June 2010:

  • six projects had been approved for funding
  • the Department had contracted four projects, for $37.5 million, and
  • two contracts were under negotiation, for $25.5 million.

The approved projects were developed in conjunction with state and local government and non-government organisations. Three of these projects are:

  • developing state-of-the-art office and rehearsal facilities for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra ($9.0 million)
  • upgrading roads, walking trails and accommodation facilities in the Fitzgerald River National Park in Western Australia ($20.0 million), and
  • constructing new facilities for the Wayside Chapel, and delivering programs and support for disadvantaged people, in Sydney ($3.0 million).

The National Partnership Agreement to Support Local Government and Regional Development was approved in late May 2010 for projects contracted with state and territory governments. Extended negotiations to finalise this agreement with some states and territories led to initial delays in contracting projects. An implementation plan was developed under the agreement, in line with the requirements of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations and the program guidelines.

Regional Development Australia

The Department implemented Regional Development Australia (RDA), a national network of 55 committees, to grow and strengthen Australia's regions. More than 600 committee members were appointed, an operational and governance framework was put in place, and funding arrangements were agreed.

RDA committees are building partnerships across all tiers of government and with local communities, to provide strategic and targeted responses to the economic, environmental and social issues impacting on the regions of Australia. RDA committees are also developing their regional plans/roadmaps, based on guidance and templates provided by the Department.

The RDA National Forum, for RDA Chairs and Deputy Chairs, was held at Parliament House, Canberra, on 18 March 2010. Hosted by the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the forum provided a range of opportunities for committees to learn more about Australian Government programs, services and initiatives. The forum succeeded in establishing strong links between the RDA committees, particularly in their work to develop solutions to challenges facing their regions.

The RDA Executive Officers National Induction was held on 1 and 2 June 2010 in Canberra, and attended by the executive officers from 55 RDA committees. The induction focused on the operational, governance and administrative aspects of RDA.

II Office of Northern Australia

The Office of Northern Australia supported the implementation of the East Kimberley Development Package, working with the Western Australian Government, the Shire of Wyndham—East Kimberley and two Indigenous organisations to develop project plans to deliver 29 infrastructure projects. The projects will continue to 2011–12.

The Office of Northern Australia also provided:

  • secretariat services to the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce, which delivered its final report in December 2009, and
  • policy advice and briefings to the Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Western Australia, on issues affecting Northern Australia.
Case Study-East Kimberley Development Package

The $195.2 million East Kimberley Development Package (EKDP) is a unique approach to the delivery of infrastructure and services in north-west Western Australia, based on collaboration between the Australian Government, state and local government and the community. The investment covers Kununurra, Wyndham and surrounding communities such as Warmun, Jungdranung, Oombulgurri and Kalumburu, and complements the Western Australian Government's $220.0 million Ord—East Kimberley Expansion Project.

The EKPD coordinates the delivery of a range of social and common-use infrastructure projects in the areas of health ($50.0 million), education and training ($64.0 million), housing ($50.0 million), transport ($15.4 million) and community infrastructure ($15.6 million).

The projects were developed to create opportunities for local Indigenous people, to give them experience and skills for the future. This is being facilitated by a local engagement officer and an Indigenous Employment Coordination Group, to bring together key employment-related stakeholders.

The projects are being delivered by several key partners, including the Western Australian Government (through a National Partnership Agreement), the Shire of Wyndham—East Kimberley, and two Indigenous organisations. This collaborative approach encourages coinvestment by the partners, where appropriate.

The Ngnowar Aerwah Seven Mile Residential Rehabilitation Centre, near Wyndham, is an example of how this collaborative approach benefits the delivery of key infrastructure for the community. The project is being delivered on the ground by the Ngnowar Aerwah Aboriginal Corporation, with funding from the EKDP and other Australian Government grants and from the Western Australian Government.

The centre provides support to people from the region who are seeking treatment to manage substance misuse issues. The EKDP funding has been used to improve the functionality and liveability of the centre through the provision of housing and offices for staff, recreational facilities and landscaping. This complements the state-funded construction of single and family accommodation units, treatment buildings, creche and common-use areas such as dining and kitchen facilities. The entire package of works will expand and improve the facility, allowing it to treat more people and begin to work with families in a holistic approach to rehabilitation and wellbeing.

The Ngnowar Aerwah Aboriginal Corporation is committed to engaging local and Indigenous workers. The corporation employs 38 Indigenous people to manage its services. On this project, 21 Indigenous people were engaged in the first stage, setting them on paths towards apprenticeships and ongoing employment.

The project is due to be completed in December 2010.

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Last Updated: 24 October, 2014