By Michael Giles
AMID the chorus of condemnation, by some candidates in the Bass Coast Shire election race, that negativity by the Stand Alone group, the local media and anyone else who queried the conformation of the Cowes Revitalisation project, was somehow to blame for its failure to attract National Stronger Regions Funding – there’s a much more serious question here.
And that’s the fact that so much of the $126.5 million in Federal Government funding, handed out to 67 projects around Australia last week, went to the suburbs of our capital cities.
It’s a ‘Stronger Regions’ fund for goodness sake!
What the hell are our local MPs actually doing up there in Canberra?
Why did the likes of the Hurstville City Council, located 4km from Sydney Airport, get two applications up; $500,000 towards a $1.7 million project to create a multipurpose meeting space and an archival storage area at the Hurstville Library and $1 million towards the $12 million cost of the upgrade and revitalisation of Penshurst Park, in the next suburb over?
There was also $6 million towards the $31 million cost of a new Ronald McDonald House in Westmead, located next to Parramatta in the geographic centre of Sydney.
A project in Manly got $10 million, another in Carlton (inner Sydney suburb) got $558,000 and Tumbarumba Shire (also in Sydney) got $215,000 for a swimming pool upgrade.
It was the same in Melbourne and other capital cities.
And there was $10,000,000 towards the $92 million cost of releasing more land for 17,000 new housing lots in West Dapto south of Sydney.
It’s hardly surprising, given that scenario that Bass Coast’s application, one of 479 from around the country, missed out.
The scheme was nobbled from the outset.
Others locally including the Baw Baw Shire Council’s application for $4.9m to upgrade the West Gippsland Regional Arts Centre at Warragul, Cardinia Shire Council’s call for $2.4m towards a Lang Lang bypass and Cardinia Shire Council’s request for $4.2m for the Deep Creek Community and Education Centre at Pakenham were also overlooked.
If any town needed that sort of support its Pakenham with its worrying law and order issues.
Following the backlash over the first two rounds of funding the Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash said at the time that the $495 million left in the fund would hence forth only be available to regional, rural and remote Australia but it has taken them another round under the present rules to change it.
According to McMillan MP, country projects will get a much better go under the new Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF), which is expected to open for applications in December.
To give him his due, Mr Broadbent admitted today that it had been a mistake to allow inner city municipalities to apply for funding when they were often far better resourced than their country cousins.
But he said some people had a different definition of ‘regions’ which included the outer suburbs.
So, Bass Coast may well have a much better chance of success in the next round and if the new council can lead its administration towards a project that really does have majority community support, all the better.