Canberra must kick can: mayor

By Riverine Herald

CAMPASPE Shire’s mayor believes support from state and federal governments must be given to local government if our communities are to be sustainable in the future.

Cr Adrian Weston met with Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation Minister Bridget McKenzie last week, as well as several other shire representatives.

He said the meeting went well and was an opportunity to discuss local government issues and opportunities in rural Victoria.

Cr Weston said the more support local government can get, the better.

‘‘The more that we can get, especially for things like roads, (the better),’’ he said.

‘‘Local government has the biggest road network and potentially the least ability to be able to maintain and improve it.

‘‘Long-term yes (that is concerning) but short and medium term to a lesser extent.

‘‘Long-term, especially with a rate capped environment, it gets harder and harder to maintain all of your assets with the costs rising more than our income.

‘‘At some point it’s less sustainable long-term.’’

Cr Weston said it was about balancing federal grants and the ‘‘greater need for the smaller, rural shires as opposed to some of the bigger metros’’.

‘‘For the smaller rurals in particular, you’ve got a greater amount of infrastructure per capita that you’ve got to maintain,’’ he said.

‘‘Basically there’s less ratepayers to provide equitable services that you might get in bigger shires.

‘‘We’re a good example of that because we’ve got eight pools in Campaspe.’’

And more than 60 bridges.

‘‘A lot of them were designed to carry vehicles 15 tonne and now there’s 40 plus tonne going over them which is shortening their lives and we simply don’t have the funds to replace them all,’’ Cr Weston said.

The other bulk of the conversation, he said, was around decentralisation.

‘‘The minister is the first minister who has the specific portfolio of decentralisation ... to make it part of a ministry is a new initiative,’’ he said.

‘‘She’s a regionally based Victorian senator and she’s keen to pursue and facilitate decentralisation and I think that was a pretty clear message.

‘‘They are keen, wherever they can, to ensure that we can get enough funding to be sustainable.

‘‘The potential for decentralising government agencies as well as incentivising private company decentralisation (was discussed).

‘‘And how it would be great to be able to have some of that growth in our region for some of the smaller communities.

‘‘We wound up with a conversation about water and the current situation of drought and looming drought for northern Victoria.’’