In the budget this week, the Federal government announced the extension of the Building Better Regions Fund with an additional $200 million to be devoted to this program over the next four years. This takes the total fund up to $500 million. This is part of the broader Regional Growth Fund, which includes another $272 million for major “transformational projects” in regions undergoing “structural adjustment”.
History of Building Better Regions Fund
The Building Better Regions Fund provides funding for infrastructure and community investment projects in regional and remote areas of Australia. The Fund is a reincarnation of the National Stronger Regions Fund which was rebadged by the Federal government during the 2016 election, and the earlier Regional Development Australia Fund before that.
The most recent name change also saw a significant reduction in the funding allocation and restrictions on the location of projects to be funded. Under the three rounds of funding under the earlier program, a number of projects located in metropolitan cities were funded as the projects served a regional base. This was criticised as undermining the purpose of the fund and now projects in the major capital cities are not eligible.
The current aim of the Building Better Regions Fund is to create jobs, drive economic growth and build stronger communities in regional Australia. The first round funding included an infrastructure stream and, for the first time, a community investment stream. This extends funding to projects which have a social benefit. For example, projects which attract major events to an area or build leadership capacity in the community.
The first round of funding closed in February and March of this year, with the successful projects expected to be announced in June 2017.
Tips for successful applications in future funding rounds
The Building Better Regions Fund is highly competitive with local councils and not-for-profits generally applying for high value funding for signature infrastructure projects. Lower cost community projects are also now in the mix, which is a welcome change from earlier versions of the program. No doubt, if the budget passes through, then the additional funding for the program will see more or higher value rounds of the competitive grant application process – there’s plenty of projects to be funded after all.
In our experience, for applications to cut through and get traction, they need to be:
- Well connected to long-term / sustainable job opportunities – preferably across more than one sector, i.e. provide diversified outcomes
- Have tangible economic benefits to the region – the spend that occurs benefits gross regional product
- Results in a positive reflection of the area – creates a positive story around the project and region
Future of the Building Better Regions Fund
In the future we would love to see greater co-ordination between Federal and State opportunities. For example, projects with support from three levels of government could be facilitated through joint funding processes, rather than having to compete for both State and Federal regional funding programs as separate entities – as is the case in NSW.
But for now we welcome the latest announcement of additional funding and hope to see many more regional projects of significance being progressed in the near future.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Building Better Regions Fund, please get in contact with Steve: