Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says he is stunned that State Government bureaucrats have rejected a plan to restore the Mallacoota Golf Course which was devastated by last summer’s bushfires.
Mr Chester has supported a $1.8 million plan to revegetate and redesign the course using state and federal government bushfire recovery funding.
“The golf course is located on one of the most spectacular sites in East Gippsland but the vegetation was destroyed in the bushfires which severely impacted Mallacoota,” Mr Chester said.
“The community has identified its restoration as a high priority and has already undertaken major clearance work and developed a new design with the limited resources available to a volunteer organisation.
“The committee sought funding under the Local Economic Recovery program which is jointly funded by the Federal and State Governments but the ‘expression of interest’ has been rejected by bureaucrats.
“I have written to both the State and Federal Ministers to demand an explanation on behalf of Mallacoota locals who have supported this project.
“The rejection at the first stage of the process is exactly what I warned about months ago. We are effectively outsourcing strategic decisions to bureaucrats rather than allowing local priorities to be put before the responsible Ministers for their consideration.
“It’s a farcical process that has led to no projects being started more than six months after the funding was announced, and as we near the one year anniversary of the fires.”
Mr Chester said he would continue to support the golf course project and seek alternative sources of funding on behalf of the club and wider Mallacoota community.
“In rejecting the expression of interest, the State Government bureaucrats are claiming the volunteer committee needs to provide more detail to demonstrate the economic benefit to the region,” Mr Chester said.
“This is after the club was advised to apply for funding under the regional economic stream of the program rather than the local recovery stream. How is a voluntary organisation expected to undertake all of this paperwork when many of the club members were directly affected by the fire themselves and they receive conflicting advice from the people paid to help them?
“The course is a significant tourist attraction in its own right and if properly revegetated and redesigned, it will grow in popularity and help to give Mallacoota a more resilient visitor economy.
“The project will create jobs during construction, deliver environmental benefits and add to the social life of locals. It is staggering that bureaucrats are rejecting a project that will help the recovery of the town most directly impacted by bushfires in East Gippsland without even allowing the community to progress its application beyond the first stage.”