RDA funding needs to be reinstated for vital infrastructure projects
Posted March 18, 2014
Hansard copy of RDA round 5 funding speech, March 17, 2014
I rise today to speak in support of the member for Lalor. In particular, I wish to report to the House the disappointment that the people of Indi have expressed regarding the withdrawal of funding commitments under the Regional Development Australia fund rounds A and B.
The allocation of funding under rounds A and B was an investment in rural and regional communities. It enabled growth, created jobs and provided certainty for desperately needed community projects.
Many of these projects have an important safety focus, particularly road infrastructure. People in Indi are most disappointed that proposed RDA funding for road black spots will not go ahead.
I have spoken to a number of key stakeholders responsible for the rollout of RDA projects in my electorate. They have expressed bewilderment that the RDA funding system has been abolished. They tell me that the system was efficient, easy to use and that it funded projects that would otherwise not have been prioritised for funding.
Two weeks ago, in this place, I spoke about the good work the Hume RDA committee does in Indi. Their leadership and research has had a significant impact on the planning and implementation of essential projects in my region.
Under rounds 5A and B, Indi was due to receive in excess of $7.3 million in RDA funding. I want to list the projects that missed out. They were: the Wodonga City heart redevelopment at $5.86 million, the Wodonga Tennis Centre court redevelopment at $343,000, Rutherglen Main Street at $284,000, Wangaratta Saleyards upgrade at $410,000, Mount Beauty Progressing Place at $247,000 and Mansfield Daisy Street construction and car park at $192,000. These projects represent significant community and volunteer input as well as the time and money of the councils of Indi.
In speaking to this motion I would also like to voice my support for the RDA decision-making process. It worked. It was efficient. It was trusted. It had legitimacy. It created effective networks. It delivered high-value, great outcomes and, most importantly of all, there was no red tape.
One of the reasons this process worked so well was the extent of consultation that took place prior to its establishment. Community members were involved, as were NGO groups such as Australian Women in Agriculture, business groups, local government, community agencies and state government departments. We argued and we debated. We worked in great cooperation to design a system that would deliver for all our rural and regional communities.
We know that this government wants to leave a legacy as an infrastructure government. This is a noble aim and it has my total support. However, a critical first step is to build on what works and to avoid the temptation to dismantle well-established and respected processes just for the sake of change.
My constituents tell me that the RDA scheme works, and works well. It gave councils confidence to plan and gave them processes to engage with all stakeholders. It had a belief in long-term sustainable development and, for our communities, there was an ability to proactively develop rural and regional areas for the future.
In closing, I echo the words of the members of Lalor. I call on the government to reinstate RDA funding right across the country. This funding is important for the future development of rural and regional areas, in particular—including Indi. I believe that the abolishment of this funding will cause us to miss infrastructure opportunities.
It will cause the loss of economic activity and job-creation opportunities that our rural and regional areas desperately need. I ask that the government truly value the work and the knowledge of our councils and reinstate a program similar to what is currently working for our local government areas.
Finally, I call on the government as a matter of urgency to reinstate funding, thereby enabling communities to continue to plan and develop our regional centres to ensure their viability for our future.