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The Federal Government should overhaul its regional grants funding programs which are failing to deliver fair outcomes for communities like Gippsland, according to local MP Darren Chester.

Mr Chester said the latest round of Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) had reinforced his view that the competitive grants formula was unfair and inequitable.

“It’s become a report writing competition with the homework marked by Canberra bureaucrats who are disconnected from regional communities and there’s no guarantee that each region receives any funding whatsoever,” Mr Chester said.

“Large organisations with paid grant writers are competing with volunteer-run community groups and there’s an enormous waste of time and effort.

“Under the latest round, Gippsland received just $500,000 out of a $300 million fund despite applying for several major projects that would’ve made a difference in some of the most disadvantaged parts of our region.

“The three projects that have been funded are all good initiatives but it beggars belief that no major projects in Gippsland were deemed worthy enough by the Canberra bureaucracy, and I fear our region has been short-changed.

“The entire funding model needs to be overhauled with each region provided with an allocation of funding based on socio-economic needs, with extra weighting for more vulnerable regions.

“Rather than Canberra bureaucrats making these decisions, the locally-based Regional Development Association Gippsland committee members should be making funding recommendations to the responsible Ministers.”

Mr Chester said he would write formally to the Prime Minister seeking an overhaul of the regional grants program to provide increased fairness, equity and transparency.

“Allocative models of funding have worked for major programs in partnership with local councils and the BBRF needs to be reformed to ensure every region receives a share for local priority projects,” Mr Chester said.

“I’ve argued for several years that the funding should be allocated fairly and transparently to RDAs across Australia to ensure funding and resources are allocated to projects that align with regional priorities.”

Mr Chester said Gippsland had received funding for three small projects under the current round of BBRF.

Projects include:

  • Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation received $375,000 towards the upgrade of the community centre in Sale.
  • Maffra Neighbourhood House received $54,345 to upgrade the accessibility and capacity of their new building for the relocation of services from the hospital.
  • Seaspray Surf Lifesaving Club received $76,788 for the extension of the existing clubhouse.

“The construction of these projects will not only support local jobs but also boost Gippsland’s economy as we recover from drought, bushfires and the coronavirus,” Mr Chester said.

“Gippsland is a vibrant region and infrastructure upgrades make it an even better place to live and work. We need to receive a fairer share of regional grants in the future and I will be making our case very strongly when Federal Parliament returns later this month.”

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