21/05/2014 - 11:25

Redman says funds cap a good fit

21/05/2014 - 11:25

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Regional Development Minister Terry Redman has sought to soften the blow of a reduction in Royalties for Regions funding by promising a more a strategic approach to spending and greater investment in the southern regions.

VALUE: Terry Redman says Royalties for Regions funding still has a major role to play in developing infrastructure and services. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

Regional Development Minister Terry Redman has sought to soften the blow of a reduction in Royalties for Regions funding by promising a more a strategic approach to spending and greater investment in the southern regions.

The minister’s pledge follows the Barnett government’s budget decision to cap spending under the Royalties for Regions scheme to $1 billion.

Introduced after the 2008 state election, the program was originally designed to allocate 25 per cent of the state’s resources royalties to regional development. Following the budget cap announcement, that figure is expected to fall to just 12 per cent in the 2016-17 financial year.

Mr Redman has denied accusations the government has broken faith with the intention of the legislation, or that the program was worse off financially.

“In the six years up until now we have spent, this is spent, not allocated, $3.7 billion. In the four years forward estimates now there’s a $4 billion expenditure limit,” Mr Redman told Business News.

“It’s inaccurate to say that there’s less money there to spend, that’s rubbish.”

He flagged new allocations of $600 million over the next five years for major upgrades in the regions of Peel, Wheatbelt, South West and Great Southern as significant additional investments.

The government will also spend $292 million over five years to develop regional blueprints to guide investment decisions.

Both spending commitments are due to receive the bulk of their funding in the back end of the forward estimates.

Only $2 million will be spent on developing blueprints in 2014-15, while investments in the state’s southern regions have the largest allocations in 2017-18.

Mr Redman said major projects such as the Pilbara Cities initiative and hospital spending would continue to receive previously committed funds.

He said complaints about inefficiencies in the program seemed to stem from a country-city divide, illustrated by the recent uproar over the installation of a public toilet in Bunbury.

“There’s 40 self-cleaning toilets in the city. We build one self-cleaning toilet in Bunbury and it’s criticised. Give me a break,” Mr Redman said.

“Some of my hardest constituents are those who move from the city to the bush and for the first time in their lives see the service gap.”

He hailed the development of regional blueprints as the last piece in the puzzle to ensure good guidance and long-term direction.

“I don’t think we’ve done that (planning) well up to this point. I think now we are getting better guidance to direct increasingly a much more strategic focus on those investments,” Mr Redman said.

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