Opening Address Connecting the Dots – an Infrastructure Australia Conference shaping the future of infrastructure in remote Indigenous communities Brian Gleeson Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services Alice Springs, 6 February 2012
Expectations of governments • National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery: • Outcome 16 (a) standards of services and infrastructure to be comparable with non-Indigenous communities of similar size, location and need elsewhere in Australia; • Output 17 (i) - the identification of gaps in priority local infrastructure Government investment will be prioritised and coordinated to ensure each priority location has the infrastructure and services that support and sustain healthy social norms so people can reach their potential and communities can thrive. Minister Arbib, 2R speech, Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services Bill, 25 June 2009
Why infrastructure matters • Key enabler for economic development: • reliable accessibility to essential services, transport and communications • construction industry underpins many regional economies • housing essential for employees • Communities and Government have a number of priorities in remote areas: • quality homes designed to needs • basic level of quality capital works • sustainable employment outcomes achievable from well planned capital works program • good environmental health critical for improving wellbeing • attracting private sector investment
Key remote infrastructure issues • land tenure and serviced land availability, road, power, phone and water constraints • inconsistent servicing by local governments and unclear service standards • Cost blow outs caused by remoteness and lack of contractors, protracted community consultations • fuzziness around ongoing responsibility for governance and maintenance of facilities • uncoordinated approach by governments and small scale of projects (lack of economies of scale) • tensions between delivery and other agreed policy objectives (eg local employment)
Some ideas for action • Need a clear understanding of the cost of not filling the infrastructure gaps (economic modelling) • Need a national approach to clarify roles and responsibilities • Need to agree on a long term plan, priorities for investment and service standards (which would not be one size fits all) • Need to consider diverse sources of investment • Native title owner equity investment in large projects (eg ports, airports) • Minerals Council to also support infrastructure • Private sector investment • Philanthropic organisations
Some ideas for action • Governance of Indigenous infrastructure - need to adopt a “portfolio manager” approach • Institutional capacity and policy/legislative mandate to drive whole of government approach (e.g. the Queensland Remote Indigenous and Land Program Office model) • Separate the funding gap discussion from accountability discussion • Develop criteria to ensure we get the best value from available funding (linked to development of service and infrastructure standards) • Local government capacity remains an ongoing concern • Need to consider solutions more suitable for scale – eg draw on international development • Planning, priorities and coordination
Some ideas for action • Governments should seek secure tenure over land and services in accordance with a long term plan for infrastructure development (including essential services) in communities • Capital works be phased so as to facilitate the sustainable development of local employment opportunities – whole of community infrastructure plans • Announcements of new projects not be made until after appropriate consultation and planning has occurred • Agencies fund the “true cost” of delivering services to remote communities including all associated employee costs, such as staff housing, repairs and maintenance costs for the life of the asset and ongoing costs such as lease payments and shire rate charges • Governments develop innovative approaches to securing sufficient housing (community and staff), including partnering with the private sector
Recommendations • Report 1 – Recommendation 4.1: • That the Australian Government Departments of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government; and Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, in consultation with relevant State and Territory departments, investigate the feasibility of a single whole of government contracting entity to plan and manage construction of community facilities in remote locations, with a scoping paper to be presented for consideration by COAG in the second half of 2010.
Recommendations • Report 2 – Recommendation 4: • Noting the work underway within the Australian Government to assess infrastructure needs within priority communities, it is recommended that future Local Implementation Plans should identify local infrastructure priorities to inform the development of a cross-government infrastructure investment plan. • Report 4 – Recommendation 4: • It is recommended that changes to land tenure better reflect the range of issues, including service delivery, land use planning and economic opportunities, as well as ensuring effective property and asset management into the future. Work currently being done by State and Northern Territory governments to reform land tenure and planning systems and ensure application and enforcement of relevant standards should give priority to Remote Service Delivery communities and aim to be completed by the term of the National Partnership in 2014.
Connecting the dots • Alice:would you tell me which way I ought to go from here? • Cheshire Cat:That depends on where you want to get to. • Alice:I don’t much care where. • Cat:Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.