By Kyra Gillespie
The Victorian Government’s re-commitment to a “vital source of income” for the municipality has restored hope for future community projects.
In a bid to woo voters in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, next month’s state budget will tip another $50 million to the government’s Growing Suburbs fund.
The fund is a local councils grants program for vital community infrastructure in 10 of the city’s fastest-growing corridors, restoring funding that was slashed in last year’s budget.
Cardinia Shire Mayor Cr Collin Ross has welcomed the re-commitment.
“The Growing Suburbs Fund is a vital source of income for Cardinia Shire Council to meet the needs of our rapidly growing population,” Cr Ross said.
“It allows us to deliver much needed community infrastructure and facilities to serve our community for many years to come.”
The announcement restored the funding that was slashed in last year’s budget and has returned spending on the fund, which has paid for 76 projects on the urban fringe since it was established in the Andrews’ government first budget in 2015, back to the promised level of $200 million over four years.
The Growing Suburbs Fund started life as the Interface Growth Fund, a 2014 election promise made after lobbying from outer-suburban councils pledging money to vital community projects in areas that did not enjoy the infrastructure riches of the inner and middle suburbs.
Growing Suburbs was also offered as a consolation to councils struggling financially under the government’s Fair Go Rates policy, which caps the level of council rates at inflation.
There were bitter complaints from the interface councils last year when the funding was cut in half in the 2017 budget.
Cr Brett Owen, Interface Councils spokesperson and Mayor at the time, had said the cash cut would halve the number of community projects funded.
Now Deputy Mayor, Cr Owen said the restoration of the funding was “fantastic news”.
“Our council relies heavily on this money to provide the vital infrastructure our communities so desperately need,” he said.
“We can do a lot with this money.”
The $3 million Cultural Centre Redevelopment, the $1.5 million Hills Hub and the $500,000 James Bathe Recreation Reserve grants have all been approved under the 2017-2019 Growing Suburbs fund by Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz.Announcing the re-commitment to the full funding of Growing Suburbs on Tuesday 20 April, Ms Kairouz said the infrastructure spending being paid for through the fund was “vital”.
“This boost will deliver more vital infrastructure to Melbourne’s booming outer suburbs,” the minister said.
“It’s building everything from new sports pavilions to childcare centres, ensuring locals have the facilities and services they need, close to home.”