Rate cap rural roads infrastructure Country Roads and Bridges | December 20, 2016
Rate cap headache for rural roads
The State Government’s decision to cap rates at 2% next year has significant implications for rural and regional councils already struggling with a road and infrastructure maintenance backlog.
“With the announcement of the rate cap, whilst ratepayers will be happy with this news, it reminds us of the ongoing headaches for councils after the Andrews Labor Government significantly reduced funding for rural roads and bridges,” said Ms Bath.
“I call on the Andrews Government to provide specific and targeted funding programs to local government, similar to the previous Coalition’s Country Roads and Bridges Program, which provided $1 million each year over four years to 40 rural councils for infrastructure maintenance and renewal.”
Ms Bath is a member of Parliament’s Environment and Planning Committee, which conducts a six-month rolling Inquiry into the impact of rate capping.
“As a member of the Environment and Planning Committee, I have listened to the testimonies of many CEOs and councillors from rural and regional shires who raised significant concerns about their capacity to meet community expectations for service delivery and infrastructure upgrades. East Gippsland CEO Gary Gaffney has commented that the East Gippsland Shire alone has 2900 kilometres of road and 209 bridges to maintain.”
“The Nationals understand that city councils have options to raise revenue from sources other than rates, such as money received through parking meters and fines. In addition to that, not only are metropolitan councils geographically smaller, they have more rateable properties which means lower average rates.”
“Meanwhile, infrastructure maintenance and renewal requirements for country councils are quite large with extensive road networks, hundreds of bridges plus extensive walking and cycling paths that need to be maintained for local communities.”
This was reinforced by LGPro Vice President Rebecca McKenzie’s evidence to the latest Inquiry, which identified factors such as, “…the lack of economies of scale, the need to provide duplicate community infrastructure for geographically dispersed communities; the expansive road networks and significant smaller population bases through which we can spread the rating burden.”
Ms Bath concluded, “Applying for a rate variation is complex and adds another layer of cost and challenges to councils. This city-centric government needs to recognise Victoria extends beyond the tram tracks and provide real dollars to help people travel safely on our rural roads and bridges.”