Roy­al­ties fund­ing de­fended by Nats

Pilbara News - - News - Nick But­terly and Ali­cia Per­era

North West Cen­tral MLA Vince Cata­nia has de­fended Roy­al­ties for Re­gions fund­ing for the Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre af­ter the Re­gional Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan sin­gled it out as an ex­am­ple of an un­sus­tain­able pro­ject un­der the pol­icy.

Na­tion­als MP Mr Cata­nia said the cen­tre had been the sub­ject of 20 years worth of com­mu­nity lob­by­ing in a bid to im­prove tourism and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and would drive em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Ex­mouth’s econ­omy is based around tourism and the Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre is a tourism pro­ject that is go­ing to cre­ate em­ploy­ment,” he said,

“Build­ing the fa­cil­ity has cre­ated lo­cal em­ploy­ment and it is go­ing to drive fu­ture em­ploy­ment in the tourism sec­tor, be­cause it’s an iconic piece of in­fra­struc­ture and some­thing the com­mu­nity has been fight­ing for for the last 20 years.”

“It has en­abled the trans­for­ma­tion of Ex­mouth’s CBD into a work­able town cen­tre to al­low busi­nesses to be able to func­tion bet­ter and pro­vide for growth.”

Mr Cata­nia said lo­cal gov­er­nance is­sues sur­round­ing the cen­tre which were the sub­ject of a Cor­rup­tion and Crime Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tion last year were sep­a­rate from its core busi­ness case.

It comes af­ter Ms MacTier­nan last week con­firmed a ma­jor shake-up to the Roy­al­ties For Re­gions scheme, sug­gest­ing funds would be “re-pri­ori­tised” for gen­uine job and in­fra­struc­ture pro­grams such as so­lar power schemes rather than spend­ing on small town recre­ational cen­tres.

Ms MacTier­nan said there had been a lack of rigour around RFR spend­ing and many projects had left coun­try shires sad­dled with fa­cil­i­ties they could not af­ford to main­tain.

The min­is­ter said there were sev­eral projects com­ing up that were be­ing con­sid­ered for fund­ing, which might now be axed un­der an in­creased level of scru­tiny.

Ms MacTier­nan said rather than fund­ing “rib­bon-cut­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties”, Roy­al­ties For Re­gions should be fund­ing gen­uine in­fra­struc­ture projects such as re­new­able power schemes in the Gold­fields that would en­cour­age min­ing in­vest­ment.

She ze­roed in on the trou­bled $30 mil­lion aquatic re­search cen­tre at Ex­mouth, which was at the cen­tre of the CCC in­quiry, and moves to sus­pend the lo­cal coun­cil.

Ms MacTier­nan said she had been made aware re­search tenants at the fa­cil­ity were pay­ing sub-com­mer­cial rates, leav­ing the Shire to foot the bill for a $70,000 op­er­at­ing sub­sidy.

She crit­i­cised the fo­cus on the con­struc­tion of recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties, which had left some coun­try towns with build­ings that could not be main­tained by small pools of ratepay­ers. “There are ques­tion marks and we are find­ing more and more ques­tion marks around the abil­ity of many of these com­mu­ni­ties with very small rate bases in the fu­ture to sus­tain these,” Ms MacTier­nan said.

La­bor went to the State elec­tion promis­ing to re­tain RFR but Premier Mark McGowan has pledged to “even out” the pro­gram and made re­gional elec­tion prom­ises funded with RFR money.

WA Na­tion­als leader Mia Davies said La­bor’s sug­ges­tion it would “repri­ori­tise” RFR fund­ing was code for slash­ing the pro­gram and putting the money into projects that should be funded out of gen­eral ex­pen­di­ture.

“Roy­al­ties for Re­gions was the most scru­ti­nised spend in govern­ment,” Ms Davies said.

“Ev­ery pro­ject re­quired a busi­ness case to be pre­pared by the depart­ment re­spon­si­ble for the pro­ject, as­sessed by the Depart­ment of Re­gional Devel­op­ment and sub­mit­ted to Cab­i­net for ap­proval.”

One Na­tion WA leader Colin Tinck­nell said his party was open to chang­ing RFR and was ready to have dis­cus­sions with the Govern­ment.

“We are very much in favour of RFR but it can be im­proved and it can be more flex­i­ble,” he said. “I do feel as though the agri­cul­tural and South West re­gions have missed out in im­por­tant ar­eas of in­fra­struc­ture — ma­jor con­cerns to the elec­torate.”

Pic­ture: Shire of Ex­mouth

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the pro­posed Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre.

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