Fair Go campaign wins back our funding

A FEDERAL fund for regions that pumped millions of dollars into capital cities will be restructured to target communities outside Australia's major hubs

In a major victory for the Fair Go for Regional Australia campaign, the National Stronger Regions Fund will no longer be allowed to give money to major cities.

Just weeks ago we revealed nearly $50 million from the fund, touted as a victory for regional Australia, was being spent in suburbs in major capital cities.

Projects within 3km of the CBD in Brisbane were funded by the first two rounds of the program while $33 million was spent on Melbourne proposals, including a water park.

Fiona Nash

But Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash will today pledge to improve the scheme she inherited, transforming it into the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).

"As Regional Development Minister, my vision is to help build the regional communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to," Ms Nash said.

"We don't want to lose the talents of our young people to the cities, and creating regional, rural and remote communities they'd love to live in is one way to make sure that doesn't happen."

The new scheme will now only go towards projects outside capital cities and will target two streams, infrastructure projects and community investments.

About $505 million was spent on the first two rounds of the old fund, with the remaining cash from the $1 billion scheme to run across the new Building Better Regions Fund.

The program is expected to run until 2020, with the potential to be extended after that.

Proposals in regional capitals like Darwin and Hobart will still be eligible for funding while those in major metropolitan areas such as Sydney or Melbourne will not.

Ms Nash said the new scheme would have a fairer assessment process, sorting proposals into categories based on size.

"It's very hard for smaller and more remote community and volunteer groups or small councils to compete for funding against big capital city councils who have the ability to employ consultants to write grant applications," she said.

"It also makes sense to assess small projects against small projects, medium-sized projects against medium-sized, and major projects against major projects. A $500,000 project should not be competing with a $20 million project for funding.

"We will introduce three infrastructure project categories to ensure projects of a similar size will be ranked against each other and small projects will not compete with major projects for funding."

Entries for the third round of old funding scheme closed in June, with regional projects competing with major proposals in metropolitan areas.

Applications submitted included funding for new Brisbane Broncos and Brisbane Lions facilities as well as a Melbourne Innovation Centre in the inner-city suburb of Alphington in the Victorian capital.

The new setup will stop these capital city applications competing for money from regional programs.

Ms Nash said local leadership and community projects, which were not eligible under the old fund, could now apply for funding.

"Examples of local community projects could include funding to expand a local food and wine festival or attracting a major event to bring more tourists and business to a town," she said.

"It could be to develop a strategic economic or jobs plan for a region or leadership training for local young leaders."

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