On behalf of rural communities across the state, Rural Councils Victoria has welcomed today’s Infrastructure Victoria ‘Infrastructure Priorities for the Regions’ report, part of ‘Victoria’s Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy’ report.
“We are pleased the draft report has supported key suggestions made by Rural Councils Victoria that will enhance livability for people in rural communities, expand employment opportunities and promote population growth,” RCV Chair Mary-Ann Brown said.
Some of the suggestions made by RCV that were supported by Infrastructure Victoria include:
· Funding measures to address the poor condition of many major rural roads, a major drag on productivity, as well as a factor in the alarming increase in road deaths in rural Victoria.
· Developing a redesigned, integrated local transport service network based on regional needs assessments, and incorporates flexible services.
· Increased funding for better social housing. Our submission identified appropriate housing as a real barrier to population and workforce attraction to rural areas.
RCV also welcomes recommendations on:
· Tourism initiatives that recognise this activity is increasingly important to rural economies.
· Improvements to the emergency water network, so that rural Victoria’s key economic activity of agriculture is supported and can best adapt to increased incidents of climate events such as droughts and bushfires.
· Better digital connectivity, including faster broadband and eradicating mobile blackspots, which will allow rural businesses to operate with greater efficiency and increase productivity.
Rural Councils Victoria Chair Cr Mary-Ann Brown said:
“We are particularly pleased that Infrastructure Victoria took seriously our submission about the poor condition of major rural roads becoming a major drag on productivity, particularly in terms of the extra time it takes to distribute and supply essential agricultural products grown and harvested in rural Victoria.”
“Infrastructure Victoria has listened to RCV calls for improved digital connectivity. Rural communities experience poorer and lower-quality digital connectivity, which impacts on service delivery and the application of technology-driven solutions.”
“We also welcome the recommendation for the reform of rural and regional public transport to cater for local needs.
“Public transport services are absent in many rural areas, which has forced councils to try to provide alternative transport options for residents, particularly community and local transport (CLT) to services such as primary health care located in nearby towns and cities.”
“Delivering these services requires additional resources in terms of staff and funding, and resources are quite limited. Federal and State funding for community and local transport (CLT) for councils has decreased over time, so this recommendation is warmly welcomed.
“Several rural communities also operate within mobile black spot areas. Having sufficient digital services in rural areas would allow more people to work from home, access services remotely and ultimately contribute to population retention.”
“We have spoken regularly with the Victorian Government around developing tourism and tourist related products in rural Victoria and it is good to see that these ideas have been recognised.”
“We call on the Victorian Government to take the recommendations of Infrastructure Victoria on board and to invest properly in rural communities to improve liveability, productivity, sustainability and prosperity,” Ms Brown said.