Article – RDA support for diversification funding allocations, but competition from north for remaining cash

26 May 2015
ABC News

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Riverina has supported the criteria for the allocation of millions of dollars in grants to projects in the Murray Darling Basin to boost economic growth.

Twenty-one projects in southern New South Wales were last week named as winners in a scheme funded by the Commonwealth but administered by New South Wales.
There is $14m still to be spent under the Murray Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Program.

There have been calls from the state Member for Murray and and federal Member for Farrer for the funding criteria to be changed.

But RDA Riverina Chairwoman, Diana Gibbs, says the evaluation of funding applications was rigorous and was about projects which will create jobs and stimulate the economy.

“I should add the funding is going to be very much performance based,” she said.

“The results have to be achieved before the money is handed over, so I think a more general ambit claim for something that might be good for the region is not really going to cut the mustard.

“I think the criteria are quite precise and I think that is the way it should be.

“It is entirely consistent with the aims of RDA Riverina to support our innovative agriculture and value adding and also to strengthen our infrastructure base, so we think it is wonderful,” she said.

A state MP from the north of New South Wales is questioning the allocation of funds under the Murray Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Program.
Adam Marshall says he will be pushing Regional Development Minister, John Barilaro, to allocate the program’s remaining money to Northern basin projects.

“It’s an absolute farce that we have a program that supposed to cover the whole basin, across the state of New South Wales, designed to create and stimulate projects that are designed to offset the impact of job losses with water being lost as part of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and in the northern part of the basin absolutely zero dollars from this program,” he said.

“Quite clearly, there were massive impacts across the northern part of the basin, particularly across the Macintyre, the Border Rivers and the Gwydir Valleys which are in my electorate, and to have not a single project meet that criteria and yet there was massive impact, alarm bells have to be ringing that hey, perhaps the criteria is wrong.”

Mr Marshall says Moree alone lost $20 to $30m in on farm activities.

“That flows on to about $40m to $60m of impact across the economy and the general community and yet not a single project got up,” he said.

“And yet we see projects supported by this fund in communities like Batlow, that while they’re in the Murray Darling Basin, they never had any water and never lost and water as a result, and so there is not impact to offset.

NSW Trade and Investment has confirmed the Murray Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Program is open to applications across the entire basin.
Ms Gibbs says the next round of funding should keep the same criteria.

“If they feel that only $18m worth of projects fit the bill at this stage, then let’s look forward to round two when we get very much better at writing applications and addressing the criteria.”

 

PHOTO: Irrigators say budget cuts will impact on the Murray

Courtesy of ABC News

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