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Big infrastructure budget, but falls short on recycling action

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The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) welcomed the Budget’s big spend on State and local infrastructure which will help councils to continue providing services and facilities to communities, but warned the recycling crisis would hit hard without further Government investment and action.

Cr Mary Lalios, MAV President, said it was an impressive budget that demonstrates the value governments can generate for the community when they have adequate revenue to fund infrastructure and services.

“We hope the State’s big transport spend will better connect communities and reduce traffic congestion, despite the Government still working on an integrated transport plan for Victoria.

“We’re particularly pleased to see $100 million funding for local roads in rural and regional areas, which will help to improve road safety. Councils maintain 85 per cent of Victoria’s road network but many shire budgets show worrying signs of capital works cutbacks to stay within the State-imposed rate cap.

“Local government is also one step closer to restoring a 50:50 funding partnership for the School Crossing Supervisors program, which plays a key role in road safety around schools. The State has boosted funding for the coming year by around 20 per cent to $18.9 million.

“Following MAV and council advocacy, we’re thrilled to see $20 million for a new one-year Rural and Regional Council Transformation grant program. This will greatly assist councils to set up collaborative procurement and improve their financial management strategies to make services more sustainable.

“Local government has also been increasing its investment in early childhood infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing population and take action to update ageing facilities.

“$43 million to assist councils with building, upgrading and improving early learning facilities is vital given that many kindergartens and maternal and child health centres are almost 70 years old.

Cr Lalios also welcomed a further $50 million for the Growing Suburbs Fund to continue providing infrastructure for new communities, as well as an extra $15 million for female-friendly sports facilities.

“Councils will also benefit from funding to transition to centralised annual property valuations, plus investments in faster and smarter planning processes, smarter use of water in cities and towns, and a range of community crime prevention initiatives.

“$16.5 million will fund the Victorian Building Authority to undertake a cladding audit on 1,300 priority sites, which councils have called on the State to resource following a report by the Cladding Taskforce.”

Cr Lalios said despite the big spending infrastructure budget, the MAV was disappointed that the State had not reinvested landfill levies already collected into projects that will develop innovative solutions for Victoria’s recycling conversion industry.

“A recycling crisis has swept across Australia following China’s import restrictions. The State Sustainability Fund must invest in new initiatives to ensure our recycling industry can be sustainable.

“We call on the Government to allocate urgent funds for priority projects once the State’s Recycling Taskforce submits its report in the coming weeks,” she said.

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Contact MAV President, Cr Mary Lalios on 0447 189 409 or MAV Communications on 9667 5521.