No funding guarantees

Funding of more than $860,000 allocated to recreational projects for Traralgon and surrounding areas will be at risk if a Coalition Government is elected this Saturday.

The projects include completion of the Traralgon to Glengarry section of the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail, construction of a junior football pavilion at the Traralgon Recreation Reserve, a lift and pavilion for West End Sporting Complex, along with an upgrade to the Agnes Brereton Park netball pavilion.

Latrobe City Council had been allocated the money by the Federal Labor Government under the Regional Development Australia Fund, but a funding agreement is yet to be signed.

Upon announcing the Coalition’s five-year $1 billion ‘National Stronger Regions Fund’, which would replace the RDAF, Nationals leader Warren Truss last week said the Coalition would not honour approved projects which did not have signed contracts.

A spokesperson for Mr Truss told The Express projects without funding agreements “fell into the gamut of a Labor election promise” which the Coalition was “not beholden to”.

However, they said if elected, the Coalition would look at projects on a case-by-case basis and assess them on their merits.

It is not clear whether council would be required to again go through a full application process.

Latrobe City chief executive Paul Buckley confirmed the certainty of the funding hinged on a decision by the new government.

“They’re projects the council has been working with the community on for some time and are all important projects for our community and we would hope that any new government would honour the commitment of the current government,” Mr Buckley said.

The recreational upgrades were earmarked to proceed in the 2014/15 financial year.

Mr Buckley said without federal funding, council would not be able to move forward with the projects so quickly.

In a statement late Friday, The Nationals accused Labor of misleading the public into thinking it could afford to pay for the RDAF projects.

“Labor could not pay for the projects which communities thought they were getting,” the statement read.

“Labor’s RDAF spending was dependent on the mining tax, which spectacularly failed to take anywhere near the revenue Labor budgeted for. When Labor’s finances began to fell apart, RDAF projects were first in line for the axe.”

Regional Australia Minister Catherine King said the money was guaranteed under Labor and claimed Mr Truss’s comments also extended to three major projects outside the RDAF funding pool, whose certainty had been questioned in the past few weeks.

The Moe Railway Revitalisation Project, a workforce development plan and a university training clinic with dental prosthetics lab at Churchill are also without funding agreements.

A spokesperson for Mr Truss said the comments only related to RDAF projects, but he stopped short of promising any funding, confirming the line taken recently by local Coalition MPs Darren Chester and Russell Broadbent.

“As for anything that falls outside of that (RDAF) funding, for other projects, in Opposition we aren’t privy to those arrangements and won’t know what the state of play is unless we are able to form government,” the spokesperson said.

“If we form government, we will consider all projects on their merits.”

Mr Buckley maintained his optimism funding for the Moe project would come through regardless of which party won government.

“Given that the fund is a specific Latrobe Valley fund, then my expectation continues to be that the finalisation of any funding agreement should be a formality,” he said.

Latrobe Community Health Service chief executive Ben Leigh, who will oversee the dental prosthetics lab and training clinic, said he accepted the assurances recently given by Mr Chester, who vowed to fight for the project, to go ahead if the Coalition was elected.