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OUT OF THE LOOP: ELIZABETH TAYLOR SAYS FUNDING CUTS TO THE NETWORK MEAN THE END OF AN ERA. PHOTO: DAVID JO BRADLEY

Grants network out on a limb

THE fate of federal government grants conduit, Perth Area Consultative Committee, is in limbo after a planned transition to the Regional Development Australia network on July 1 failed to materialise.

Funding was cut to Perth ACC from June 30 and negotiations between the state and federal governments have stalled following a May federal cabinet reshuffle whereby Maxine McKew replaced Gary Gray, who was overseeing the transition, as Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development.

RDA committees are locally managed, non-profit, community-based organisations funded by the federal government.

They facilitate grant applications, taking on roles such as providing advice and consultation to local businesses, promotion of government planning, facilitate community and economic development, and assisting regional planning.

WA Business News understands that, currently in Western Australia, no separate or legally constituted RDA committees exist, although a service delivery contract was to be formed between the federal and state governments to deliver services throughout the state from July 1.

While the nine rural-based Regional Development Commissions in WA are poised to absorb the state's new RDA network in regional WA, no such commissions exist in the metropolitan area, leaving Perth ACC without a home.

The ACC network was designed to facilitate development in rural areas, provide a link between government, business and the community, and to facilitate government responses to business opportunities.

Over the years, Perth ACC has helped a number of projects receive government grants, including the City of Gosnells' Pioneer Park redevelopment ($275,000), Association for the Blind Guide Dog Discovery Centre ($579,000), and City of Swan's Swan Regional Park stage 1 development ($1 million).

In March, Regional Development Minister Anthony Albanese said the establishment of RDA would replace the defunct national ACC network, however the delivery model and start date in Perth is still yet to be determined.

A spokesperson for Ms McKew told WA Business News that the federal and state governments were close to finalising a memorandum of understanding for the implementation of RDA in WA.

Under the MoU, WA-based Regional Development Commissions will deliver RDA functions on behalf of the federal and state governments, effectively replacing the ACC network.

But Perth ACC chair Elizabeth Taylor said the local ACC network had been kept out of the loop and "it looks to be the end of an era for the conduit to the Commonwealth government for funding".

"We're finished, there's nowhere to go; the doors have all closed," Ms Taylor told WA Business News.

"For WA, we realised early on that if Regional Development Australia was going to be working with the Regional Development Commissions, that meant that Perth ACC was completely left out of any future because there are no Regional Development Commissions in [the city].

"For the last six months we have been working with the Department of Local Government and Regional Development trying to form a MoU, a partnership, but it seems Perth has been left high and dry."

After many name-changes since its inception in 1994, Perth ACC was formed following the merger of the North Metropolitan Perth ACC with South East Metropolitan and Coastal Area Consultative Committees in July 2000.

Since then, the responsibility for the committee has shifted from job creation and labour market initiatives, to the broader parameters of the regional partnerships program with the focus on stimulating growth in regions, improving access to services, and supporting communities affected by major economic, social or environmental change to make structural adjustments.

A change of federal government in 2007 resulted in a review of the ACC network, closure of the regional partnerships program and the closure of the ACC network.

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