The Federal Government’s Budget 2020 delivered several outcomes for the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) including $2 billion additional loan funding in 2020-21 and $50 million in operational funding over four years from 2020-21, as well as a decision to end the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility (NWILF) which was administered by the RIC.
The Federal Government cited significantly changed circumstances surrounding national water infrastructure since the NWILF was initially announced in 2016, including prolonged drought, devastating bushfires and the impact of COVID-19 on regional Australia. The $2 billion NWILF has been available for state and territory governments to help fund the construction of major water infrastructure projects.
RIC Chief Executive Officer Bruce King said the RIC welcomed the additional loan funding and accepted that the RIC would no longer be required to administer the NWILF, allowing the RIC to focus wholly on delivering loans for farmers and farming businesses.
“The RIC has been successful in making state and territory governments aware of the RIC’s water infrastructure loans, yet we’ve found these projects have very long development lead times with many of the RIC’s potential projects still working through feasibility studies or environmental approvals.
“As a result, we were yet to receive any water loan applications and considering the changed national water infrastructure circumstances, accept the Government’s decision to end the NWILF.
“The RIC will continue to focus on meeting the incredible demand we’ve had for our loans for farmers and farming small businesses as quickly as possible using the additional $50 million in operational funding. We have now approved more than $1.1 billion in loans since July 2018 as at 31 August 2020, so we’re pleased to receive the Government’s ongoing assistance to support regional Australia.”
There will be a transition period while the RIC works with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on the legislative amendments and strategy following the Government’s announcement.