Outer suburbs deserve same attention as the bush

Australia’s fast-growing outer suburbs, which are home to five million people, have been overlooked in favour of regional, rural and remote areas, according to an advocacy group.                                                                                                                                         

The Coalition has announced the billion dollar National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) will be renamed and will exclude all metropolitan areas, including outer suburbs, which previously had access to it.

“While the bush deserves attention, so do the great outer suburbs of our capital cities – from Penrith in Western Sydney to Wanneroo in Perth’s north,” says Ruth Spielman, the director of the Fund our Future campaign.

“What is often not recognised is that these municipalities contain significant rural land holdings and they also often serve rural and regional communities beyond their boundaries,” Ms Spielman says.

Research commissioned for the campaign shows there is already a $50 billion backlog in infrastructure for fast-growing outer suburbs and unless it is seriously addressed now, that figure will grow to $73 billion in the next 15 years. By then, the population in these areas is expected to reach 7.5 million people.

“The fund was one of the few avenues available to councils on the outskirts of our capital cities to access money for much-needed infrastructure – and now we are being locked out of that as well,” says Ms Spielman, who is also the Executive Officer of the National Growth Areas Alliance, which is behind the campaign.

“Infrastructure Australia has underlined the need to better support population growth.  Why then is it being made even harder for these population hotspots to get assistance?

“Taking away access to the fund further highlights what we have said all along: the outer suburbs need a national dedicated infrastructure fund to address the infrastructure backlog and to keep pace, as they continue to grow,” she says.

“Giving residents and businesses in the great outer suburbs the same opportunities and access to infrastructure as other Australians is not only a matter of fairness, it is also a matter of common sense,” says Ms Spielman.

“Research tells us that investment would create jobs, provide greater tax revenues and permanently boost national GDP by billions of dollars annually. It would also reverse the billions of dollars of lost productivity that Infrastructure Australia says we’re frittering away.”

The Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash says the new fund, known as the Building Better Regions Fund, would only be open to regional, rural and remote Australia and it would also include opportunities for small community and volunteer groups.

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, National Growth Areas Alliance, 0448 388 934 or susi.hamilton@ngaa.org.au