City of Newcastle is seeking support from State and Federal Governments for a dedicated Local Infrastructure Stimulus program, with funding for both large-scale infrastructure projects and a Local Government New Deal aimed at protecting jobs and delivering community infrastructure.
The move would bridge the gap between State and Federal Government COVID-19 stimulus packages and increase local employment by fast-tracking shovel-ready infrastructure projects.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in times of crisis, local government was often the first to respond and rebuild at a grassroots level.
“As one of the single-largest employers in rural and regional communities, Councils like City of Newcastle are best placed to kickstart shovel-ready projects and get people back into the workforce,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Such a move, when supported by State and Federal stimulus, has the power to create legacy community infrastructure, sustain local services and employment and drive the local economy, as was the case during the early 1990s recession when the Federal Government formed the Local Government Capital Works Program.”
Priority projects previously endorsed by the NSW Government as key to significant job growth across Greater Newcastle include Coastal Management Planning and Erosion Management, particularly at Stockton Beach; flood mitigation works at Wallsend; the Greater Newcastle Light Rail Expansion; and affordable housing initiatives.
With a diverse workforce of more than 1,200 staff, City of Newcastle has been significantly impacted by Government-mandated closures and restrictions aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 – particularly community and cultural facilities such as Newcastle Museum, City Gall, the Civic Theatre, the Stockton Holiday Park and Newcastle Art Gallery.
Ineligible to receive the $1,500-per-employee, per-fortnight JobKeeper subsidy, the City has opted-in to the Local Government (COVID-19) Splinter (Interim) Award, backed by the Office of Local Government NSW and United Services Union, to identify opportunities to retain and redeploy affected staff.
The Lord Mayor thanked staff for their commitment to serving the Newcastle community despite the disruption to day-to-day life.
“Staff have been exceptional in their effort to continue to deliver a high level of service for our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now more than ever, it is vital that the State and Federal Governments partner with local government to support shovel-ready projects that can grow our economy and support our workforce.”