QUEANBEYAN City Council has missed out on a federal grants program offering up to $15-million for major regional projects after its emailed application was lost in cyberspace.
Federal member for Eden Monaro Mike Kelly and local councillor and Labor party member Brian Brown criticised Council this week for not entering an application into round four of the Regional Development Australia (RDA) funding program, which closed to applicants on December 6.
They say Queanbeyan has missed a golden opportunity to secure a large grant of federal funding at a time when Council is cutting back on its annual aged and disability care costs.
Both the federal and local branches of RDA confirmed for The Queanbeyan Age that Council hadn’t lodged an expression of interest by the cut-off date.
However Queanbeyan general manager Gary Chapman said an application was definitely sent by Council staff, and that he was following up with Council staff to identify where it gone astray.
“It was certainly sent in. I signed it off,” Mr Chapman said.
“It’s just whether it’s been caught up in some sort of email frenzy at the end…I’ve got to follow that up with staff and get some advice on what happened,” he said.
Mr Chapman said that Council had lodged an application seeking $1 million in funding for a park and ride facility at the Collett Street car park, which would involve relocating the bus interchange out of Crawford Steet and building related infrastructure such as toilet blocks.
However after missing out on federal funding for this project in a previous round of RDA funding, Mr Chapman said he wasn’t hopeful it would have been successful a second time around.
“We were overlooked on a previous occasion, and we weren’t believing that we’d have any success this time around as well,” Mr Chapman said.
Councillor Brian Brown said it was a “missed opportunity” for Council.
“It’s just inexcusable that Queanbeyan wouldn’t have an application in,” Cr Brown said.
“These grants have funding up to $15 million available. And we’re obviously struggling to the point where we have to cut aged care and respite care services, while there’s grant funding out there that’s specifically tied to regional areas like Queanbeyan and we don’t even put our hat in the ring.”
Both Cr Brown and Gary Chapman have close involvements with the RDA funding scheme: Cr Brown is the deputy chair of RDA southern Inland and Mr Champan is on the committee of the ACT branch.
Mr Chapman said that in his experience RDA funding was hard to come by.
“The ACT hasn’t scored any projects. I’m on the RDA ACT, and through all the funding opportunities and 20 applications, the ACT is yet to receive a successful application. It’s a lucky dip with this sort of thing,” he said.
“And every time we put an application up [in Queanbeyan], we haven’t even got past the post to even have it seriously considered by the funding body, so we’ve always been missing out,” he said.
Mr Chapman also responded to criticism from Mike Kelly’s office that Council was letting down ratepayers by not seeking federal funding through the RDA scheme.
“The projects that the Council really thinks are important, we’ve got no support on that from the local member. This is just the political infighting from Mike Kelly as he was sprouting in the paper with aged care services,” Mr Chapman said.
“I mean, he was directly involved with aged care services, and we wrote to him, and we still didn’t get any money for it. Otherwise we would have continued providing that service,” he said.
However Mike Kelly said he stood by his record of delivering infrastructure and services to Queanbeyan, and said he’d so far secured an “unprecedented” $102 million of funding in Queanbeyan alone, including a range of sports facilities, the GP Super Clinic, BER school halls and road upgrades.
“I have seven councils in my electorate and every week I’m contacted by mayors and general managers in my region [for federal projects], and they get advice and letters of support from me an so on,” Dr Kelly said.
“Unfortunately I haven’t had any contact at all from the Queanbeyan general manager- he never calls me or seeks meetings.
“I feel it’s a great shame that the general manager hasn’t sought to work with me in the other in the way that other general managers in the region have. That’s a matter for him.
“My door is always open, and I don’t have any axe to grind here; I’m willing to work with him,” he said.