It has been a big year for Regional Capitals Australia (RCA). With our new Chair, Mayor Cr Samantha McIntosh on deck, a refreshed board and three new members; Fraser Coast Regional Council, Alice Springs Town Council, and the City of Busselton we are ready for an exciting 2019.
But first, let’s take a look at 2018. Investment in regional capital cities is becoming a priority for the Federal Government, this year saw nearly $720 million committed via grants for specific regional projects and close to $13 billion announced for infrastructure pipeline projects, including the Coffs Harbour bypass; the Bruce Highway upgrade; and the Inland Rail Project from Brisbane to Melbourne. RCA’s work advocating the need to grow our regional cities has also gained national attention and RCA expects to see the initiatives on how best to achieve this aim announced by both parties prior to the 2019 election.
Investment has been provided in a number of ways – the second round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program saw regional capital cities receive close to 48% of the $21.7 million allocated to this program. Nearly 113 jobs have been committed to shifting from Canberra to the regions as part of the government’s decentralisation plan.
Two more deals were announced for RCA members, with an allocation of $154 million for the Geelong City Deal and indications that the Hinkler Regional Deal will include upwards of $100 million in Federal funding.
In the second round of the $200 million Building Better Regions Fund, 13 RCA members were awarded $25.1 million in funding, including $10 million for the City of Greater Geraldton to upgrade their regional airport.
Investment in regional and rural education was also featured in policy, with $275 million allocated towards a range of initiatives including scholarships and funding for Commonwealth Supported Places. Education budget wins for RCA members include $7.5 million for regional study hubs in the City of Greater Geraldton, the City of Karratha and Griffith City Council and $30.2 million for the Sunshine Coast University’s Fraser Coast and Caboolture campuses.
Regional health initiatives received $83.3 million across 6 university medical schools and 18 rural clinical schools. Notably, RCA members Wagga Wagga City Council, Dubbo Regional Council and Orange Regional Council made up half of the university medical schools awarded funding.
As we approach the end of 2018, there are additional investments forecast as the Regional Growth Fund is currently under assessment, with 50% of applicants selected to progress to the next stage of assessment from regional capital cities.
RCA also contributed to the national debate and informed political thinking through four submissions and three parliamentary hearings. RCA and regional cities were recognised over 117 times in recent bi-partisan reports by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia’s Future and the Building Up & Moving Out report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities. This recognition gives a strong indication on where both sides of politics will act to inform their regional development policies for the election.
The population policy debate is ramping up and RCA will continue to make the case that our cities are all ready to grow and assist in achieving a more balanced approach to a growing Australia.
The RCA will be advocating that this growth agenda is also matched with ongoing funding for connectivity and liveability infrastructure and decentralisation opportunities and make sure the Regional Deals application process is opened up for all of our members.