UNDERFUNDING OF MELBOURNE’S GROWTH CONTINUES
Funding for a number of large State infrastructure projects in Melbourne’s growth communities has resulted in an ‘above trend’ increase in funding according to a new analysis of the recent State Budget commissioned by Victoria’s Interface Councils.
Speaking on behalf of the Interface Councils group, Mayor of Mitchell Shire Cr Rhonda Sanderson said that while the level of investment was a positive, the Interface Councils would be working to ensure shortfalls in specific areas were addressed as a matter of priority.
“With the rapid and sustained growth of our communities we need to make sure that all levels of government provide funding to emerging areas of need, particularly in social infrastructure and issues such mental health,” Cr Sanderson said.
The Interface Councils group is made up of the 10 municipalities that form a ring around metropolitan Melbourne, representing around 1.6 million residents living in the outer suburbs. The Interface Council areas accommodate approximately 28% of Victoria’s population and 36% of Metropolitan Melbourne’s population. Over the past five years the areas have been responsible for accommodating 45% of State population growth and 53% of Metropolitan Melbourne population growth.
The 2021/22 Budget allocated 46% of new allocated funding to Interface Council areas, which is an increase from 34% in 2019/20 but the same share as in the 2018/19 budget (also 46%). No data is available for 2020/21.
The analysis by Ethos Urban notes that over recent years the funding provided to Interface Councils via the State Budget and other Grant programs has been more closely aligned to Interface Councils’ total share of population and growth. However, cumulative underfunding over preceding budget years had resulted in significant underfunding in some expenditure categories.
When new and existing funding is considered over the four-year forward estimates, Interface Council areas were allocated:
23% of total allocated investment for key infrastructure items,
52% for Early Childhood facilities,
47% for Roads, and
42% of funding for Education and Training (land and facilities).
Just 9% of allocated State health funding was directed towards Interface Council areas in the 2021/22 Budget, and this contrasts with 58% of allocated funding for Non-Interface Metropolitan Council areas and 33% for Regional Council areas.
Importantly, the population of Interface Council areas is forecast to continue growing at a faster rate than Non-Interface Metropolitan Council areas and Regional Council areas over the next 15 years.
While the full impact of the pandemic on current population growth remains to be seen, it is clear that Interface Council areas will continue to accommodate the bulk of Victoria’s population growth. It is also clear that significant and sustained infrastructure funding will be required to support the needs of Interface communities over the coming decades.