Councils need more state road funding

The celebration of the sealing of the Balumba/Kinnard Road was an exciting day in many ways.

The upgrade has been a long-term joint venture of the Kimba, Cleve and Tumby Bay councils and well done to them.

The day caused me to reflect on the support local government receives to maintain our local road networks.

The state is the underlying owner of our land and controls the various lease and ownership arrangements for all properties.

Local councils are created by state government legislation providing a local management vehicle and have been granted the right to raise rates to fund their operations.

Over the years the state government has devised copious regulations and by-laws they insist local governments adopt but seldom provide any financial assistance for them to perform these duties.

The lack of state government support has turned councils, desperate for assistance to maintain services and road networks, to the federal sphere.

Rightly or wrongly, as a result today the bulk of support for councils comes from that area.

Around two thirds of the $12 million Bulumbah/Kinnard Road project has been funded federally by the Special Local Roads Program, one I fought hard to have re-instated after it expired a few years back.

The Roads to Recovery program has pumped millions into local councils as have the annual Federal Assistance Grants, which after a period of pause have had their CPI indexation restored, once again following intense lobbying.

These programs provide the vast majority of government assistance to local governments and defy claims that governments do not support councils.

A situation where state government inflicts extra costs on councils and the federal government picks up the bill is essentially a broken system.

If the state can keep loading extra costs on to councils but do not bear any financial responsibility for their implementation, we are likely to keep getting ridiculous over regulation and escalating costs.

That is why the White Paper process into our Federation should be put back on the table with the essential task of clarifying the role of the three levels of government and their applicable funding streams.

Rowan Ramsey

Federal Member for Grey