Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says the bureaucracy needs to develop a greater sense of urgency to distribute a $68.8 million economic recovery program for bushfire impacted parts of Victoria, including East Gippsland.
Mr Chester said it had taken too long for Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV) to release guidelines for funding applications under the Local Economic Recovery Package and the community was increasingly frustrated by the long delays.
“The community has been putting forward job-creating projects since the funding was announced in May,” Mr Chester said. “It’s taken too long for BRV to release grant guidelines and now it wants to wait until January next year to announce successful applicants.
“I have repeatedly asked the state and federal ministers to speed up the process in the interests of securing long-term sustainable jobs and building confidence in the economy across Gippsland.
“There have been some outstanding projects put forward for funding like East Gippsland Rail Trail, Metung Hot Springs, Mallacoota Abalone Co-op, Snowy River Trestle Bridge and Buchan streetscape redevelopment.
“The challenge is to get this money out of the city departments and into our community where it will assist in the construction of the strategic and transformational projects we need.
“It’s a rare opportunity to have significant untied funding available for our region and we need to use it well to support long-term, sustainable jobs.”
Sixty percent of the money – $42 million – will be spent on regional projects that boost infrastructure, tourism and industry. The rest – almost $27 million – will go to smaller community projects that instil local pride, boost connectedness and encourage people to support local businesses.
Mr Chester said he would work with local community leaders to put forward major projects to help transform the regional economy.
“As a region, we need to demand our fair share of this funding,” Mr Chester said.
“We need to be ambitious and think big. We need to capitalise on our natural assets, build on our existing infrastructure, diversify our visitor economy and create something positive from the devastation of the bushfires.
“My East Gippsland 2030 Recovery Plan has a long list of projects that are worthy of government support and I will be working with local residents to get this money working for Gippsland sooner, rather than later.”
For more information about the Local Economic Recovery Package, visit www.vic.gov.au/local-economic-recovery-program-bushfire-affected-communities. Applications open on October 29.