Growing regions' frustration

The Albanese Government continues to starve regional Western Australia of economic and community development funding with its failure to deliver on grants programs promised to the regions, including its much‑hyped but under-delivering Growing Regions Program.

Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP said regional shires, towns and cities across his 1.1‑million‑square-kilometre electorate were suffering from Labor’s failure to allocate grants for much-needed infrastructure.

“The Albanese government in Canberra has imposed a two-year funding drought on regional communities as a result of the prime minister’s decisions to abolish programs designed to strengthen rural, remote and regional Australia and a failure to deliver initiatives of his own,” Mr Wilson said.

“Labor promised programs to support the regions, but after almost two years there is nothing to show for it.

“Federal ministers are sitting on grants programs, refusing to part with money promised for the regions, choosing instead to hoard the cash to prop up the Budget surplus in Canberra.”

Mr Wilson’s electorate has the most local government areas, 57 in all, of any electorate in the nation, and all of them are regional.

“Shires and regional cities across O’Connor have worked hard to develop visionary proposals for the Commonwealth’s so-called Growing Regions Program but have been left waiting for months to hear the outcome of their applications,” he said.

“Right across WA, regional councils and community groups have waited more than 40 weeks since Labor opened the program, and over nine months not one application has been approved and funded.

“Shires and community groups were given just 20 working days to prepare and submit initial applications, but the Albanese government has failed to complete project assessments in 250 days.”

Mr Wilson personally penned letters of support for many applications to the program.

“Albany, for instance, is waiting to hear the result of its application for funding toward a much-needed upgrade to its regional airport,” he said.

“Denmark is awaiting a decision on funding for its long-awaited Ocean Beach redevelopment project, and Manjimup needs to know whether federal funding will be forthcoming for its Rea Park and Collier Street redevelopment.”

Mr Wilson said councils were trying to finalise their budgets for the next financial year and did not know if they’d be investing in planned projects, or have those community and economic development initiatives thrown on the scrap heap by the prime minister.

“By failing to award Growing Regions grant monies, Labor is depriving the regions of $300 million in much-needed funding from Australia’s regions,” he said.

“Another really innovative project left in limbo by Labor’s inertia is the Wheatbelt worker housing project, which aims to build 35 houses to help address the impact the current housing crisis is having on the ability of the region’s communities to attract staff and grow local economies.

“This project is a collaboration between the shires of Tammin, Bruce Rock, Cunderdin, Trayning, Wyalkatchem, Kellerberrin and Dowerin, which have shown great initiative in teaming up; what they require right now is an expeditious funding decision.”

Mr Wilson said the shires of Lake Grace and Ravensthorpe had also lodged applications under the Growing Regions Program, on which they were awaiting an outcome.

“Lake Grace has applied for funding toward building a new community and recreation pavilion at Lake King, and Ravensthorpe aims to upgrade its local museum to better house its exceptional artefacts and displays in a climate-controlled area,” he said.

“All projects applied for from the O’Connor electorate stand to improve the lives of regional people, and make regional shires, cities and towns more attractive places to visit and hence help to strengthen regional economies.

“Not all projects are likely to get up under Round 1 of the program, but every proposal I have seen from O’Connor has merit and the communities that developed them deserve timely advice so they can get on with developing their budgets, rather than being left dangling by Labor.”

Growing Regions is not the only program Labor has failed to deliver; not a single grant has been approved in the first assessment round of the $400 million Precincts and Partnerships program, undertaken in September/October last year.

“Representatives of the Shire of Denmark drove across to Albany to brief me on their excellent application under that program to help develop a youth precinct, but the Albanese government continues to starve the regions of funding,” Mr Wilson said.

“Over Labor’s first two years in office they have stripped more than $20 billion in infrastructure and programs from regional communities.

“Labor has abolished, or allowed to lapse, important jobs- and community-building programs such as the Building Better Regions Fund, Community Development Grants, Regionalisation Fund, Roads of Strategic Importance Program, and the Stronger Communities Program, to name a few.”

Media contact: Chris Thomson (08) 9842 2777; [email protected]

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