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There's a tiny little light at the end of the tunnel for Australia's urban infrastructure

The funds earmarked for the next wave of ‘nation building’ projects in the 2013 Budget may begin to address the $500 billion backlog of infrastructure projects, but will not provide for better learning environments or support a more resilient Australia, says the nation’s sustainable building advocate.

“While we are pleased to see $24 billion funding for urban infrastructure projects, it's only the start and substantial reinvestment is needed,” says the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA’s) Executive Director of Advocacy, Robin Mellon.

“Just last week, the Urban Coalition, of which the GBCA is a member, called for A New Deal for Urban Australia and investment in infrastructure that contributes to more productive, liveable and sustainable communities and cities.

“The absence of significant infrastructure spending in this Budget highlights the need for strategic investment that provides opportunities for more Australians, contributes to better functioning cities and boosts national productivity,” Mr Mellon says.

The Budget allocates $9.8 billion over six years for the National Plan for School Improvement – but no significance or funding has been placed on where our students learn.

“While we welcome the Gonski reforms, we are disappointed to see little investment in the cost-effective, healthy and productive learning environments that are the key to delivering high-quality education – an essential ingredient in Australia’s future success in the ‘Asian Century’. 

“Research shows that the physical learning environment can have a dramatic impact on learning outcomes.  A recent study from the UK’s University of Salford found that the classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25 per cent.  Investing in school infrastructure will ensure the Gonski funding delivers the maximum impact,” Mr Mellon explains.

The GBCA is also disappointed with the funding allocated to support a more resilient Australia.  $100 million has been promised over two years to support natural disaster mitigation and reduce insurance premiums.  From this, just $33 million will be used for uncommitted projects and to establish a National Insurance Affordability Council.

“This is a woefully inadequate response to Australia’s need to improve the resilience of its built environment.  Designing and constructing better, more resilient buildings, communities and infrastructure will minimise the impacts of extreme weather events on Australia’s productivity and stability and deliver long-term economic, environmental and social sustainability.  If we don’t invest now, we’ll pay for it in the long-term,” Mr Mellon concludes.