Rural Councils Victoria has noted the Victorian State Budget’s interest in ensuring rural and regional communities benefit from budget measures such as the creation of the SEC, renewable energy investment, disaster recovery and investments in health and education.
“We were warned via the media that this was going to be a tough budget,” RCV Chair Cr Mary-Ann Brown said.
“The state government managed expectations with reports of a large deficit and budget cuts.
“We note that they brought forward the closure of the native timber industry and RCV calls for urgent government support for the affected communities, workers and their families who are feeling devastated.
“RCV calls on the government to work in collaboration with the affected workers, communities and councils to ensure these rural areas are able to create new jobs and economically transition.
“We are also concerned that much of the investment in the crumbling Victorian rural roads network comes with the caveat that it ‘may be subject to the Commonwealth Infrastructure Investment Program review’.
“We are carefully watching the outcome of the Commonwealth Infrastructure Investment program review.
“Rural communities need roads and infrastructure that meets their needs and supports them to grow and thrive.
“It is disappointing that the projected investment in road asset management for 2023-24 is $441.6 million, down 25.5 per cent from the $702.2 million in 2022-23.
“It is further disappointing that the expected outcome for the road maintenance target in 2022-2023 is more than 29 per cent lower than anticipated.
“We note the budget papers reasoning that the reduction from 12,140,000 square metres of repairs to just 8,570,000 square metres is ‘due to increased costs arising from market price escalation’.
“Rural councils are acutely aware of the cost pressures facing road and other infrastructure maintenance and the devastating effects of natural disasters and heavy rainfall.
“Now the government is experiencing what many rural councils have been grappling with for years we hope that in future there is further funding to address these issues so rural communities, tourists and hauliers can have safe and well-maintained roads.
“Good quality roads save lives. There are proportionally more deaths on Victoria’s rural and regional roads than in metro areas and safer roads are essential to changing that.
“We also strongly call for the implementation of budget measures – both federally and at state level – to ensure that rural Victoria gets it fair share.”
“Rural Victorians welcome help with managing the surging cost of living, flood recovery and investment in flood damaged rural road repairs.
“And we will also appreciate any improved access to health and improvements in schools and kindergartens, teacher numbers and access to free TAFE, where available.
“As this government’s term unfolds and the budget conditions improve, we look forward to working with the government to improve the lives of rural Victorians with further investments in roads, housing, aged care, health, education and other areas of concern.”