House debates

Thursday, 28 October 2021


Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program

12:36 pm

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to update the chamber on how the $2.5 billion Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is helping the economy of my electorate of O'Connor recover from the pandemic. This transformative program directly funds local governments to deliver a wide range of projects advanced by their communities. The program is especially benefiting the people of O'Connor because, after the recent Western Australian redistribution, the division now houses more local governments than any other electorate nationwide. All up, there's now a remarkable 57 local governments in O'Connor, ranging from Wiluna in the WA Goldfields down to Nannup in the state's South West. Every one of those local governments will receive funding under phase 3 of the highly successful Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program announced in this year's budget. The aim of phase 3, worth $1 billion Australia wide, is to help support jobs and local economies to bounce back from COVID-19. Phase 3 recognises the critical role of local governments, as the closest tier to the people, in accelerating Australia's recovery from the pandemic.

My vast electorate spans five of Western Australia's nine regions. In the 30 Wheatbelt region shires of O'Connor, phase 3 is distributing $28.7 million to those local shires. The Wheatbelt, as its name implies, is home to 4,200 mostly family-run farming properties. Western Australia produces one-third of Australia's wheat and more than 40 per cent of its wheat exports. In 2018-19, the value of WA wheat production was $3.4 billion, and we're looking down the barrel of another magnificent season this year.

From those stats, it's easy to see why building economic resilience in the community is a national priority. One example where the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is doing more than just that is in the Shire of Bruce Rock. Bruce Rock lies in the heart of the Wheatbelt and is returning to my electorate following the WA redistribution. I visited Bruce Rock recently, and Shire President Stephen Strange told me that their town supermarket burnt to the ground during WA's first COVID-19 lockdown. With nobody able to travel, and the nearest grocery store more than 50 kilometres away, the Bruce Rock community banded together to create a pop-up supermarket in their town hall. Eighteen months on, the original supermarket team, Lisa and Chance, proudly showed me their town-hall-cum-community-store. The old supermarket has been demolished, and the shire plans to use its Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program funding to help fix this essential community service. This is a remarkable story of resilience during the COVID crisis and of how many communities are using the program to keep their economies going.

Turning from the Wheatbelt to WA's Great Southern region, another example of Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program money being spent and put to good use is in the construction of Albany's Youth Challenge Park. Phase 3 of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program will inject $10.9 million into the Great Southern economy, with $2.4 million of that going to Albany. The Albany Youth Challenge Park has benefited from a million-dollar whole-of-government funding package. The brand-new challenge park is one of the biggest skate and pump track parks in Australia. Its opening, on the Queen's birthday long weekend, was an astounding event for the youth of Albany. That chilly Friday night saw hundreds of kids of all ages—and there were some adults there as well—descend on the park, whose surrounds are fast emerging into a multifunction youth activity centre. The challenge park benefited from more than $700,000 from the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. That funding recognised the park's position as a key piece of community infrastructure that's already providing more leisure options for young locals and visitors alike. The program leveraged $300,000 previously committed under the Morrison government's Community Health and Hospitals Program. That funding in turn recognised the importance of safe places for young people and vigorous activity for physical and mental health. The youth of Albany are lucky to live so close to such world-class beaches and bush, and the challenge park provides a safe new adventure sports option right in the middle of town. The central location is important for Albany kids and the city's tourism economy.

The park's opening coincided with the Southern Peaks-Albany Mountain Bike Festival. The festival features Australia's only urban downhill mountain bike run, a breathtaking descent of the slopes of Mount Clarence and through Albany's historic city centre. A good number of pedal-pushing thrillseekers visiting Albany for the Southern Peaks were seen at the challenge park over the long weekend, adding to Albany's reputation as an adventure hotspot. Leaving the Great Southern for now, I turn to the Goldfields-Esperance region, every square kilometre of which falls within the electorate of O'Connor. I probably don't need to tell members here that Australia is the world's second-largest producer of gold and WA accounts for almost 70 per cent of the national production.