2023 Federal Budget: Money for rain gauges but other critical funding cut

Published: 9th May 2023

The peak body for Queensland’s councils has welcomed funding announced in the Federal Budget for a rain gauge network to keep communities safe but has warned other critical funding has been cut, vanished or ignored.
The Federal Budget includes $236 million over the next 10 years for rain gauges – with work in Queensland prioritised for the upgraded network to be overseen by the Bureau of Meteorology for operation and maintenance.
“As Australia’s most natural disaster-prone state, Queensland needs to have the best possible warning system,” Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive officer Alison Smith said.
“In 2021, LGAQ collaborated with the Bureau of Meteorology and the Queensland Reconstruction Authority on an extensive scoping study to improve the reliability of the flood warning system. 
“It found too many of the 3,000 gauges were not fit-for-purpose, while others were past their use-by date and unreliable.
“So this funding of priority upgrades is a welcome step forward to keeping communities safe, and we will be seeking the Federal Government’s commitment to upgrade Queensland’s entire network so that all of our rain gauges are reliable and well-maintained into the future.
“We congratulate Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt, who as a Queenslander knows only too well how important the early flood warning network is for communities across this state.”
While the LGAQ welcomed the rain gauge support, councils are disappointed Federal Assistance Grants had again been cut as a percentage of tax revenue – a clear failure by the Federal Government to deliver “fair funding” to communities by restoring FA Grants to one per cent.
“The Budget has cut Federal Assistance Grants to councils from 0.52 percent to 0.5 percent,” Ms Smith said.
“Communities are getting less of their fair share and it is ratepayers who will be left to pick up the tab. 
“Fair funding is the Federal Financial Assistance Grants restored to one percent of national taxation – just like they used to be 20 years ago.
“The Federal Government’s failure to restore FA Grants to the one percent of tax revenue so desperately needed by councils will significantly hurt communities across Queensland.”
Alarmingly, funding for the critical Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCIP) disappears in 2026-27. This follows the Federal Government’s decision to exclude some councils from the latest round and to cut community infrastructure.
“Our members were clear in their resolve that this program should continue – for community infrastructure as well as roads and for all councils – and we will be making this crystal clear as we continue to advocate for this successful program’s future,” Ms Smith said.
“While funding for housing and cost of living measures included in the Budget are welcome, it was disappointing that calls for much-needed funds to ease overcrowding and Close the Gap in Queensland’s Indigenous communities have again fallen on deaf ears.”
The LGAQ also welcomed the Federal Government’s $83.2m over four years for a legislated Net Zero Authority to coordinate communities’ transformation to a low carbon economy as well as spending on marine infrastructure in the state’s far north.
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Dan Knowles, Media Advisor