Plans to build a new Ballina Community Services Centre have received an $800,000 boost under the Australian Government’s plan to help not-for-profit groups which it says were misled under the previous government’s Regional Partnerships program.

The Government has signed an $800,000 contract with the Ballina Shire Council, Member for Page Janelle Saffin says the Rudd Government’s funding for the new community services centre will help deliver essential services to the community, with a particular emphasis on improving access for disadvantaged people in the area.

“The Ballina community has been planning for this centre for more than eight years now. So it’s good to see this worthy community project get the green light,” Ms Saffin said.

“The previous government failed to sign a contract with the council despite giving the project approval back in July 2007.

“Earlier this year, the Rudd Government was forced to close down Regional Partnerships after a scathing, 1200-page report by the Australian National Audit Office.

“But it was clear that many groups, including the Ballina Shire Council, had already started work based on false promises by the previous government that contracts had been finalised.

“That’s why the Rudd Government gave the council an opportunity to get their contract finalised if they could meet strict requirements and timetables.”

In order to start negotiations, the Council had to demonstrate they were able to meet strict conditions and timetables.  Those conditions were:

  • the project still meets the Regional Partnerships program criteria;
  • money has already been spent or commitments entered into in good faith based on the advice from the previous government;
  • they are able to meet the conditions of the original funding offer;
  • for projects involving construction or requiring a tender process they are able to commence their project or complete their tender process by 31 December 2008.  All other projects must commence within 6 weeks of contract execution; and
  • they are able to finalise negotiations and sign a contract by 31 July 2008.

Ms Saffin said that from next year, the Rudd Government would fund a new Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program to invest in community projects through a proper, accountable process.