| 26.12,11. 04:11 AM |
$40m Labor election promise in limbo
December 26, 2011
A KEY Labor election commitment to roll out $40 million in community grants across NSW has been delayed by excessive red tape with numerous projects facing cost blow-outs.
Promises made by Labor candidates to upgrade Blue Mountains facilities, river walks around Sydney and surf life saving clubs remain in limbo - 16 months after Julia Gillard's narrow win.
Many of the projects now face cost blow-outs after their initial plans were rejected or held up by the responsible federal agency.
Frustrated local residents are still waiting for a promised $1.6 million upgrade of the Roselea Community Centre in the marginal seat of Bennelong, won by former tennis star and Liberal MP John Alexander. A promised $1.2 million "revitalisation" of the Dubbo Regional Theatre is yet to receive funding approval while a $140,000 "feasibility study" into the Wallsend Sporting Fields near Newcastle is also in limbo.
About two-thirds of the projects promised under the Community Infrastructure Grants Program are yet to receive funding.
A number of community leaders have privately expressed fears the money "will be lost for all time".
Among a lengthy list of projects yet to see any federal money is a $9.5 million "revitalisation" of Springwood's city centre while a planned upgrade of the Ettalong Beach foreshore - in the marginal electorate of Robertson - is waiting for funds.
A promised $1.1 million riverwalk in Ryde, also in Bennelong, is yet to be ticked off as is the Burdekin Rd upgrade in Quakers Hill - earmarked for $4.55 million in federal cash.
Barnaby Joyce, the Coalition's regional development spokesman, attacked the government for the funding delays - contrasting this with the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted in the pink batts and school halls debacles."Labor seems to be able to spend money on waste upon waste but can't seem to meet the simple commitments it made to local areas to get local votes at the last election," Senator Joyce said. "How can anyone believe Labor's promises at the next election?"
Simon Crean, the Minister for Regional Australia, has assured local councils the government will be "honouring" election commitments.
And he is unapologetic about the delay.
"I have always sought value for money, and will continue to do so," Mr Crean said.