Infrastructure and Regional Development: Investing in Regional Growth—2016-17

The Australian Government acknowledges the significant contribution of regional Australia to our nation's economic growth, productivity prosperity. The Australian Government is ensuring that regions continue to grow and prosper, by investing in effective connections to communities and markets, strong regional leadership and safe transportation systems.

The Infrastructure and Regional Development portfolio has a strong focus on the wellbeing and prosperity of Australians through promoting, evaluating and investing in infrastructure. It also ensures efficient, sustainable, competitive, safe and secure transport is available to all Australians.

The Infrastructure and Regional Development portfolio contributes to strengthening regional Australia through fostering local leadership, facilitating local partnerships between all levels of government and supporting effective governance of Australia's local governments and territories.

The Australian Government has made a commitment to invest a record $50 billion from 2013-14 to 2019-20 for upgrades and the construction of safe and reliable land transport infrastructure across the country. This includes Roads to Recovery programme, the Bridges Renewal Programme, the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme, the Black Spot Programme and the National Highways Upgrade Programme. Across the length and breadth of Australia, these programmes are enhancing linkages between regional centres and cities, and transforming regional communities.

The Government has finalised, or is close to finalising, agreements under the Asset Recycling Initiative (administered by The Treasury) with a number of States and Territories worth $3.3 billion. These agreements will unlock investment in regional road and rail freight corridors across NSW and Victoria, and flood mitigation works in the Northern Territory.

The National Stronger Regions Fund will provide $1 billion over five years to support priority economic infrastructure projects throughout Australia. Together, Rounds One and Two have provided $505.0 million in funding for 162 projects across Australia. This includes job creating projects such as $3.5 million to the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange project upgrade at Casino, $10.0 million to the Mildura Airport upgrade, and $10.0 million to the Yeppoon CBD and Foreshore Revitalisation.

The Australian Government will set a future direction for the Commonwealth's work in regional Australia by releasing a regional development policy in 2017.

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New Initiatives

Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail

The Government is committing to the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail and is providing an additional $594 million from 2017-18 to 2019-20, in equity funding to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to acquire land for the Inland Rail corridor and continue pre-construction and due diligence activities.

The Melbourne to Brisbane corridor is one of the most important general freight routes in Australia. Inland Rail will provide 1,700 kilometre freight rail alignment connecting Melbourne and Brisbane.

Improved access to and from regional markets will result in a total of 8.9 million tonnes of agricultural freight expected to be carried in 2050 and increased road safety in regional Australia on the basis that each train will remove 110 B-double trucks from the road.

Inland Rail is expected to support an annual average of 800 jobs during construction and 600 operational jobs each year. Many of these jobs will be in regional areas.

Victorian Transport Infrastructure Package

The Australian Government has announced reallocation of $1.5 billion in funding to a Victorian Transport Infrastructure Package to upgrade for a range of new road and rail projects in Victoria, subject to matching Victorian funding. The Victorian Transport Infrastructure Package includes a $345.0 million allocation for a Rural and Regional Roads Package, to be matched by the Victorian Government to enable a package of $690.0 million.

The Government will work with Victoria to determine the best projects to receive funding through the package, with a focus on projects delivering clear productivity and safety benefits. The projects may include duplications, road widening, overtaking lanes and installation of Intelligent Transport Systems and Information Communication Technologies.

The Victorian Transport Infrastructure Package also includes $220.0 million to upgrade the Murray Basin Freight Rail network, to be matched by the Victorian Government. The project will link a significant portion of Victoria's prime agricultural land, supporting the freight requirements of primary producers and the development of other freight dependent industries in the region.

Roads to Recovery

The Roads to Recovery programme will receive $400 million in 2019-20, an additional $50.0 million per year from 2019-20 to support construction and maintenance of local roads and will be provided directly to local councils for road works chosen by the councils, and to States and Territories for roads in areas where there are no councils. Each funding recipient has a set allocation of funding over the life of the programme.

This builds on the existing Roads to Recovery programme funding of $3.2 billion from 2014-15 to 2018-19. Of this existing funding around $2.4 billion will be provided to local councils in rural and regional areas.

Black Spot Programme

The Black Spot Programme will continue to receive $60.0 million per year from 2019-20 for road safety works such as roundabouts, crash barriers and street lights at places where there have been serious crashes or where serious crashes are likely.

This builds on the existing funding of $500.0 million from 2014-15 to 2018-19 which is helping make roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Each State and Territory receives a share of the total funding, based on population and crash data.

The Australian Government has broadened the eligibility criteria for the Black Spot Programme for 2015-16 and 2016-17 to make it easier for regional communities to compete for the additional funding. The Australian Government has also guaranteed that at least 50 per cent of funding provided over these two years will be dedicated to fixing roads in regional Australia.

Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme

The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme will receive $40.0 million per year from 2019-20, building on the current commitment of $248.0 million (2013-14 to 2018-19), to fund road augmentation infrastructure that contributes to the safety and productivity of heavy vehicle operations across Australia. Projects funded under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme include rest stops and parking bays, upgrading the capacity of roads and technology trials aimed at improving heavy vehicle productivity.

Bridges Renewal Programme

The Bridges Renewal Programme will receive $60.0 million per year from 2019-20, building on the current commitment of $300.0 million (2015-16 to 2018-19), to help regions upgrade and repair bridges to enhance access for local communities and facilitate higher productivity vehicle access.

Round one of the Bridges Renewal Programme was open to State, Territory and local governments with $108.0 million in funding for 66 projects. Round two was open to local governments only, with a further $103.0 million allocated to 141 projects. Round three of the Bridges Renewal Programme is expected to open in 2016.

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Current Initiatives

Developing Northern Australia—Improving Northern Cattle Supply Chains

The Australian Government has committed $100.0 million from 2016-17 to 2018-19 to improve the productivity and resilience of the cattle industry in northern Australia. Funding will be used for road infrastructure upgrades, with contributions also being provided by the three northern jurisdictions, local governments and potentially industry, for projects which aim to reduce costs to the northern Australia cattle industry.

Opportunities to improve productivity will be modelled using state-of-the art transport logistics modelling developed by CSIRO, (referred to as the 'TRANSIT' model). These opportunities will then be assessed and prioritised in consultation with the northern State, Territory and local governments. Successful projects are expected to be announced from mid-2016.

Northern Australia Roads Programme

The Australian Government has committed $600.0 million for the Northern Australia Roads programme for priority road projects in northern Australia.

Roads identified in an audit of northern Australian infrastructure by Infrastructure Australia, along with other roads identified as priorities by the States and Territories, such as those connecting communities, or regional towns to ports will be considered for funding.

Works will include upgrades as well as safety and productivity improvements, such as widening, overtaking lanes, and pavement renewal. The Australian Government will also work with jurisdictions to agree Indigenous employment and supplier use targets for road projects. Successful projects are expected to be announced in mid-2016.

National Stronger Regions Fund

The Australian Government is delivering the $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund over five years from 2015-16 to promote economic development in disadvantaged regions across Australia.

The National Stronger Regions Fund is helping regions invest in their own future by supporting infrastructure projects identified by local communities.

The National Stronger Regions Fund provides up to three quarters of the cost of projects in remote and very remote areas, and up to half the cost of projects in all other areas, that support economic growth and sustainability, particularly in areas of disadvantage, with remaining contributions coming from local and State governments, communities and the private sector.

Successful projects from the first two Rounds have been announced. Together they are providing $505.7 million in funding for 162 projects across Australia of which most are in regional areas.

Stronger Communities Programme

The Australian Government is providing $45.0 million over two years, commencing in 2015-16, to fund small capital projects in local communities to improve local community participation, cohesion and contribute to vibrant and viable communities across Australia.

Funding of $150,000 per year over two years will be available to support projects in each of the 150 Federal Electorates. Applicants must seek a grant of at least $5,000 and up to a maximum of $20,000 and must match the Stronger Communities Programme grant in cash or in-kind on at least a dollar for dollar basis.

Community Development Grants Programme

The Australian Government established the Community Development Grants programme in 2013 to fund Government identified projects that support needed infrastructure that promotes stable, secure and viable local and regional economies. The Australian Government has already invested $363.9 million into the Community Development Grants programme from 2013-14 to 2017-18, of which $15.3 million has been transferred to deliver projects under other programmes.

The Community Development Grants programme is benefiting regional communities by creating jobs during construction as well as enhancing social and economic well-being in the long term.

The Community Development Grants programme has provided funding for nearly 300 projects including the Australian Government's 2013 election commitments and Australian Government selected uncontracted projects from the Regional Development Australia Fund and Community Infrastructure Grants Programme.

Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Package

The $106.0 million Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Package is an initiative which complements the Australian Government's Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania—a package of measures aimed at stimulating Tasmania's economy by supporting growth and employment.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is administering $88.9 million for 31 projects from 2013-14 to 2016-17, and the remaining $17.1 million has been transferred to deliver projects under other programmes.

Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation

The Freight Rail Revitalisation programme will raise the quality of the major lines on the Tasmanian rail network through selective re-sleepering and track replacement. The total project cost is $119.6 million with an Australian Government contribution of $59.8 million.

The project will reduce the operational costs of freight movements by providing additional rail capacity, improved reliability and reduced transit times. These upgrades will support the economic viability of high-tonnage businesses in regional Tasmania such as those in the cement and paper industries.

The current Freight Rail Revitalisation programme builds on upgrades that were designed to keep the lines at an operational standard, with the objective of improving overall safety, reliability to support the competitiveness of the Tasmanian rail network.

Developing Northern Australia—Freight Rail Analyses

The Australian Government committed $5.0 million as part of the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia to undertake freight rail feasibility studies in northern Australia, including a pre-feasibility study on a potential rail line between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek.

The analysis will consider the viability and economic opportunities of a new freight transport link between Queensland and the Northern Territory, also considering the broader context of the corridor reaching from Townsville to Darwin. The study will help to determine the best transport links to connect businesses in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and improve access to global markets for local producers across the northern region.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is working closely with the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian Governments to collaborate on delivering the freight rail analyses measure.

Drought Communities Programme

The Drought Communities Programme is designed to provide employment for people whose work opportunities have been impacted by drought in eligible local government areas. The Australian Government is providing $35.0 million over four years from 2015-16, with $13.0 million to be provided in 2016-17.

Funding is being targeted at local infrastructure projects that offer the greatest potential to stimulate local community spending, use local resources, and provide a long-lasting benefit to communities and the agricultural industries on which they depend. Eligible Local Government Areas receive funding of up to $1.5 million to support projects. Projects must be completed by 30 June 2019.

Declared Councils currently eligible to receive Drought Communities Programme funding are: Balonne, Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Boulia, Bulloo, Burke, Carpentaria, Diamantina, Flinders, Longreach, McKinlay, Murweh, Paroo, Quilpie, Richmond and Winton in Queensland, and Brewarrina, Coonamble and Walgett in New South Wales.

National Highway Upgrade Programme

The Australian Government is investing $228.7 million from 2014-15 to 2017-18 for a new National Highway Upgrade programme. The National Highway Upgrade programme provides funding for improvements to Australia's key national highway networks through works such as shoulder and centreline widening, ripple strips and wire rope barriers, overtaking lanes, turning lanes and pavement improvements. This commitment provides for these essential works on the:

  • Newell Highway (New South Wales);
  • Hume Freeway, Monash Freeway, Western Highway and Goulburn Valley Highway (Victoria);
  • New England Highway, Cunningham Highway, Flinders Highway and Landsborough Highway (Queensland);
  • Great Northern Highway (Western Australia);
  • Sturt Highway (South Australia);
  • Bass Highway (Tasmania);
  • Victorian Highway (Northern Territory); and
  • Federal Highway (Australian Capital Territory).

Regional Roads Productivity Package (Northern Territory)

The Australian Government is investing $90.0 million from 2013-14 to 2016-17 to replace bridges on the Roper Highway, improve flood immunity on Port Keats Road, seal sections of the Santa Teresa Way, construct a new bridge over Rock Bottom Creek on Central Arnhem Road, strengthen, widen and seal sections of the Buntine Highway and install gravel on sections of Arnhem Link Road.

The Australian Government is also investing $77.0 million from 2014-15 to 2016-17 for the strengthening and widening of road pavements, flood immunity improvements and fatigue management measures such as upgrading rest areas and intersection improvements through the Northern Territory Roads Package.

Pacific Highway (New South Wales)

The Australian Government is investing $5.64 billion from 2013-14 onwards towards the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to a four lane divided road between Hexham and the Queensland border. Currently around 408 kilometres of the upgrade has been completed and a further 145 kilometres is being built. The full upgrade will be completed by the end of the decade. This package of projects will reduce travel times, deliver significant freight benefits and reduce crash and fatality rates while meeting the needs of the coastal communities that live along the highway.

Great Western Highway (New South Wales)

The Australian Government is contributing $200.0 million towards the $250.0 million upgrade of the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow. The works include the upgrade of the highway at Forty Bends, safety upgrades between Katoomba and Mount Victoria and a programme of safety works between Mount Victoria and Lithgow. The project is expected to improve road safety and road freight efficiency while protecting the area's natural environment, heritage and community amenity.

Great Ocean Road (Victoria)

The Australian Government is investing $25.0 million from 2013-14 to 2018-19 to the upgrade the Great Ocean Road in south-west Victoria. The upgrade will rehabilitate existing pavement, stabilise cliff and land slip sites, strengthen bridges and improve drainage assets between Torquay and Allansford. The upgrade will better connect villages along the south-west coast and increase tourism at famous attractions such as the Twelve Apostles and Bells Beach. The upgrade will also improve safety and reduce travel times. The upgrade is expected to be completed in mid-2018.

Midland Highway (Tasmania)

The Australian Government is investing $400.0 million from 2013-14 to 2023-24 to upgrade the Midland Highway to a minimum 3 star Australian Road Assessment Programme safety rating. This package of works will involve some 30 individual projects over the length of the highway. Seven projects have been completed of the 14 approved for delivery to date. The highway is the major route between Tasmania's two largest cities, Hobart and Launceston, and the key freight route between Hobart and the northern ports. The project will improve connectivity and road safety on this key north-south corridor in Tasmania.

Bruce Highway (Queensland)

The Australian Government is investing $3.6 billion from 2013-14 to 2018-19 to a package of projects to upgrade and maintain the Bruce Highway, Queensland's major north-south transport corridor which links Brisbane and the regional centres to the north of the state. Over ten years this will increase, with investment reaching up to $6.7 billion.

Cape York Region Package (Queensland)

The Australian Government is investing $208.4 million from 2014-15 to 2018-19 to facilitate upgrades to infrastructure including improved road access into Cape York from the south. The projects will provide benefits to the Cape York local community and local industry, including the mining sector.

Outback Way (Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $42.0 million from 2014-15 to 2018-19 to upgrades of sections of the Outback Way to improve safety and access to remote areas. The project will unlock the potential benefits of the Outback Way, benefitting Indigenous and remote communities and the Australian economy, particularly in the areas of tourism, mining and freight.

Great Northern Highway (Western Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $307.8 million from 2014-15 to 2017-18 to upgrading the highway between Muchea and Wubin which will significantly improve freight efficiency and safety on this section of the National Network. Upgrades to this link will also contribute to the long term objective of enabling road trains to travel further south to Muchea before "breaking down" to B-double or single trailer configurations (road trains are currently required to "break down" at Wubin, some 220 kilometres north of Muchea).

North West Coastal (Western Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $172.7 million from 2014-15 to 2017-18 towards works to address the problems associated with predicted traffic growth, including heavy vehicles, and safety concerns, due to the age of the road and its narrow seal width. The works are also expected to improve freight efficiency and reduce freight costs by improving access for the local farming area and the resources areas in the north-west.

Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands (South Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $85.0 million from 2015-16 to 2018-19 to upgrade sections of the 210 kilometres of main access road between the Stuart Highway and Pukatja, and improving up to 21 kilometres of community roads. This package of work will provide all weather access to airstrips in Pukatja, Umuwa, Fregon, Mimili, Indulkana, and to the Umuwa and Fregon homelands.

$25 million South Australian Regional Roads Package

The Australian Government will deliver an additional $25.0 million for South Australian regional roads to boost the economy, increase productivity, improve safety and create jobs. The Australian Government has allocated funds to the following road projects for regional South Australia:

  • $9.0 million to complete the Penola Bypass;
  • $6.9 million towards upgrades on the Sturt Highway;
  • $4.0 million for new overtaking lanes on the Eyre Highway between Port Augusta and Whyalla;
  • $3.1 million towards new overtaking lanes on the Augusta Highway;
  • $0.8 million to upgrade the Riddoch Highway and Wireless Road intersection in Mount Gambier;
  • $0.8 million for safety works on the Todd Highway on the Eyre Peninsula; and
  • $0.4 million for safety works on the Copper Coast Highway on the York Peninsula.

Regional Aviation Access Programme

Through the Regional Aviation Access Programme, the Australian Government provides targeted support for aerodrome infrastructure and air services to remote areas where they are not commercially viable.

The 2015-16 Budget allocated $33.7 million over four years to the Remote Airstrip Upgrade funding component. In December 2015, the Australian Government announced 52 grants from this funding totalling $11.6 million, with many projects supported into 2016-17 for more complex work.

The Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme subsidises flights to ensure residents of 260 remote communities have access to regional service centres. $55.5 million is allocated to the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme over the four years from 2016-17.

The Airservices Australia Enroute Charges Payment Scheme

The Airservices Australia Enroute Charges Payment Scheme supports regional commercial airlines operating low volume, commercially vulnerable routes as well as aeromedical providers flying to regional and remote communities. The Airservices Australia Enroute Charges Payment Scheme offers eligible airlines a rebate of the Airservices Australia enroute navigation charge for applicable flights.

Sixty per cent of the applicable enroute charge is available to eligible airlines flying commercial routes. As an incentive to promote new services, new routes are eligible to be considered for funding equal to 100 per cent of applicable enroute charges. Eligible aeromedical providers receive up to 100 per cent of applicable enroute charges.

Regional Development Australia Committees

The Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committee programme provides a network of 55 committees of community leaders, working to strengthen Australia's regions and build stronger communities. They achieve this by enhancing economic development opportunities and fostering effective communication between communities, business and all three spheres of government.

The Australian Government is continuing the RDA Committee programme, providing $73.6 million for the period 2016-17 to 2019-20. Current funding agreements have been extended until 31 December 2017. Key tasks for RDA Committees include maintaining 3-5 year regional plans and advising on critical issues affecting economic development, as well as priority activities to drive economic development in their regions. RDA Committees also assist local community stakeholders to develop project proposals, identify appropriate funding sources and promote Australian Government programme.

Local Government Financial Assistance Grants

The Local Government Financial Assistance Grant programme established under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 provides financial assistance to local governments across Australia to enable them to meet local priorities. The Australian Government is continuing the Financial Assistance Grant programme which will provide an estimated $9.7 billion to local government over the period 2016-17 to 2019-20—approximately $2.4 billion per year. The funding is untied and consists of two components:

  • a general purpose component which is distributed between the States and Territories according to population; and
  • an identified local road component which is distributed between the States and Territories according to fixed historical shares.

Services to Territories

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development administers the Territories of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay, and manages national interest in the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development delivers services, provides funding support and undertakes capital works with the objective of ensuring that territory communities have access to similar services as equivalent mainland communities.

For example, the Australian Government in 2015-16 provided $110.8 million in funding for services to the Indian Ocean Territories, and approximately $6.1 million in funding for services to the Jervis Bay Territory.

Indian Ocean Territories

The Australian Government continues to support the communities of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and has extended air services underwriting. The Australian Government continues to review the air services arrangements for territories to place these on as commercial a setting as possible. To promote economic development the Commonwealth also recently released a new land management strategy.

Norfolk Island

The Australian Government's Norfolk Island reform programme provides $136.6 million over the period 2015-16 to 2018-19 to support the long term sustainability of Norfolk Island.

The Australian Government has passed legislation which extends Commonwealth laws to Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016 and amends the definition of Australia to include Norfolk Island. Commonwealth taxation and healthcare arrangements and access to social security payments will commence from 1 July 2016. New South Wales has agreed for its laws to be applied creating a modern body of State law. These will be phased in over time in consultation with both New South Wales and the Norfolk Island community so as to provide a smooth transition.

Elections for the Norfolk Island Regional Council are to be held on 28 May 2016 and the Council will operate from 1 July 2016.

State Government type services will be provided by both New South Wales and the Council and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development will continue to work with all stakeholders to transition to a broader set of state services over the coming years. The Australian Government has invested $13.0 million in the upgrade of the Cascade Jetty which will facilitate greater access to Norfolk Island by cruise ships and support containerised cargo.

Jervis Bay

The Australian Capital Territory has long held the view it is not best placed to deliver services to the Jervis Bay Territory. The Commonwealth, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory continue to consider the proposal for New South Wales to deliver state type services in Jervis Bay. A proposal is expected to be put to the community for consideration during 2016-17. The three governments will make a final decision on service delivery arrangements following community consultation.

National Capital Authority

The Australian Government recognises the maturity of the Australian Capital Territory Government in the delivery of local government and planning. The Australian Government will review the role of the National Capital Authority in providing services to the territory and consider whether they duplicate or overlap with those functions and responsibilities already administered by the Australian Capital Territory Government. Further consideration will be given to how the existing arrangements of both the National Capital Authority and the Australian Capital Territory can be streamlined and made both clearer and more efficient.

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