Council rejects grant funding claims
Published on 17 July 2020
City of Launceston chief executive Michael Stretton has rejected claims that the Council was not eligible for a $10 million Federal Government grant, which was announced last month.
More than 160 new infrastructure and community projects across regional Australia shared in more than $207 million as part of round four of the Building Better Regions Funding.
Successful projects included $2.4 million for an RV and caravan rest stop in the Shire of Upper Gascoyne, $2.1 million for a new public swimming pool in Jerramungup, $8.6 million for the redevelopment of the Maude Street Mall in Shepparton and $10 million for a new sport and community facility in Coffs Harbour.
"The Building Better Regions Fund is a very important funding stream for Local Government, as it is the only means outside of an election commitment for councils to apply for funding," Mr Stretton said.
The grant round was available to all regional locations where official Bureau of Meteorology rainfall data indicated an extended period without, or a significant decline in rainfall.
Mr Stretton said Bureau data in the 20 months preceding the Council's application submission on December 2019 clearly showed a "severe deficiency" in rainfall for the region. (refer to image A)
"Our application was submitted in good faith last year after we made all the necessary inquiries directly with the Federal Government as to whether we were eligible or not," Mr Stretton said.
"If we weren't deemed eligible at that initial stage, our grant application would not have been submitted - it's as simple as that."
Mr Stretton said that according to official Bureau of Meteorology figures, there were areas within the Council's municipal boundary rated as 'severely deficient' in terms of rainfall over both a four-month period and a 20-month period prior to December 2019. (refer to image B)
"Likewise, official river flow data for both the North Esk and the South Esk rivers clearly show that they were both significantly below the mean average and have been for the majority of the past decade," he said. (refer to image C)
Mr Stretton said that according to the Bureau, both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 year figures showed that the Tamar River was well below average in terms of flow and were at equivalent levels to those recorded during the height of the millennial drought in Tasmania.
"Based on the eligibility criteria set down by the Federal Government, any council applying for a grant was required to provide evidence to support their application, which could include official Bureau rainfall data that indicated an extended period without or a significant decline in rainfall - and we have done just that," he said.
"The Council and the Coordinator General's Office are now working through the processes and planning around the acceptance of the grant, and we will share further details with the public once this process is complete.
"This will be $10 million injected into our local economy - employing people in our community - at a time when many in our community are struggling."
Mr Stretton said that media reports that the $10 million grant would directly benefit a privately funded Creative Industries Precinct proposal on the Paterson Street Central car park were simply not true.
"It's disappointing to see things like this reported without any basis of fact. People read those articles take them as gospel. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"The Council is not involved in the development nor funding of the Creative Industries Precinct other than the need to work with the proponent to successfully deliver the bus interchange."