Matt Burnett
Matt Burnett Brenda Strong

Where's our $9 million from Gladstone Foundation?

THE Queensland Public Trustee is holding Gladstone to ransom - that's the view of the city's deputy mayor Matt Burnett, who believes the funds in the Gladstone Foundation are not being adequately managed.

LNG companies provided $13.5 million in 2011 and 2012 to a foundation to help fund shortfalls in social infrastructure as a result of the boom associated with the construction of the three plants on Curtis Island.

Now that boom is largely over, yet so far only $4.6 million has been given back to the community.

Mr Burnett said it was "disgusting" to think that such a small amount of funding had been allocated to the community.

"That funding should have been used when it was most needed," he said.

That is, during the construction 'boom', he said.

"And now it sits in the Public Trustee's coffers. There is a whole bunch of social infrastructure projects this funding could have been used for.

"We'll be lucky to see any money out of this foundation this year.

"The foundation's board of advice in my mind is the only committee you need. I can't see why the Public Trustee has had to become involved.

"To my mind Gladstone is being held to ransom. The Public Trustee just doesn't want to release the funds, it seems."

Only two projects have benefited from the foundation fund so far. One was a grant of $2.4 million to Anglicare (which has completed its first Foundation House), with more to come. The other grant went to Medibank Health Solutions Telehealth, at that time a government-owned organisation which was privatised this year.

Applications that have been recently rejected - that is, by the Gladstone Men's Shed to build a permanent base and by GAPDL, on behalf of Communities 4 Children, also for a permanent site - have, according to Mr Burnett, been rejected for what could be called spurious reasons.

A spokesman for the Public Trustee said those two recommendations were likely in breach of the trust deed because the proposed grants were not "charitable".

However there is no mention of the requirement to be a "charitable" organisation in the foundation's trust deed.

The spokesman said there sometimes was a difference between good and worthy causes and those which were charitable, according to the law. The trustee took legal advice as to whether the grants should be made and the advice offered was that they should not.

He said the trustee was looking forward to receiving further advices from the board so that charitable grants can be made to the benefit of those in the Gladstone region.

But Mr Burnett said he thought the trustee was "just looking for excuses to not allocate the funds".

Royalties for Regions funding, Mr Burnett said, was also not coming to Gladstone in the way it should because government representatives were maintaining that Gladstone had this foundation with significant funds in it.

Maxine Brushe is the chairperson of the Gladstone Region Community Development Committee, an organisation that monitors the need for social infrastructure in the region.

"It defies belief that despite the foundation's advisory board considering grant applications and making recommendations, the Public Trustee is just ignoring those recommendations," she said.

"It seems as though the trust deed has been written in such a way that the Public Trustee has the only say, regardless of what the community's needs might be."

Foundation chairman Tim Griffin, however, said he felt the Public Trustee was just doing its job. "I am happy with the way the board of advice is operating," he said.

"We represent the will of the community and I am happy to use my skills in the not-for-profit sector in the foundation. But I also understand the judicial and legal requirements of the Public Trustee."

Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher has arranged a meeting with the public trustee on Monday in an attempt to resolve the issue.



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