MP wants more R4R scrutiny

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
South West MLA Steve Thomas says more funding is needed to maintain royalties for regions projects such as the Busselton Margaret River Airport
Camera IconSouth West MLA Steve Thomas says more funding is needed to maintain royalties for regions projects such as the Busselton Margaret River Airport Credit: Jackson Lavell-Lee/Busselton-Dunsborough Times, Jackson Lavell-Lee

Margaret River-based Liberal MLC Steve Thomas is calling on the WA Government to review Royalties for Regions and offer upkeep funding for local government projects created under the scheme.

Dr Thomas said a review was needed to examine the legacy of costs many local governments faced for new facilities funded during the boom years of the royalties scheme, which was developed by the WA Nationals.

“There has been some $10 billion spent or committed under the regional development banner in the last decade, and the outcomes for the majority of that spending has been fantastic for regional areas,” he said.

“However, in some cases the construction of regional facilities has placed a significant additional burden on local communities, and particularly local governments, to operate and maintain those facilities.”

Dr Thomas noted projected annual costs of $1.7 million a year to operate the redeveloped Margaret River HEART meant it was the type of project needing greater scrutiny.

He said the Busselton-Margaret River Airport was another project with costs attached.

Busselton received “$46m in Royalties, including an initial terminal upgrade”, Dr Thomas said.

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer declined to comment on the upkeep proposal for costly developments but said the stalled Jetstar flights had received an “overwhelming response”.

The City again declined to disclose the cost to ratepayers of the subsidy. “The value of the subsidy component remains commercial in confidence,” Mr Archer said.

“It is, however, fully budgeted for over the life of the three-year agreement.”

Augusta-Margaret River Shire president Ian Earl said additional funding was merited on the basis of the Capes’ popularity as a tourism destination, regardless of Royalties for Regions, adding that tourism put greater cost pressures on local governments.

“We can always do with some more from the State Government,” he said. “However, I do believe that we should be able to look after and maintain new and refurbished assets, and this is the case currently.”

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan blamed previous Liberal-National government mismanagement of Royalties for Regions for imposing considerable cost burdens on some communities across the State.

“As the Special Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects found, the previous government’s lack of oversight of Royalties for Regions funding destabilised the entire State’s finances,” she said.

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