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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5983


Mr NEVILLE (9:39 PM) —During the 2007 election, I campaigned on a commitment to secure $1.5 million to help build the much needed community centre for the fast growing city of Hervey Bay in my electorate. If ever there was a project that cried out to heaven for completion, it is this one. It is hard to believe that a city of 50,000 people does not already have a centre, but new infrastructure is actually the biggest social challenge that Hervey Bay faces at the moment. It has grown like topsy and continues to grow. Assistance from state and federal governments with infrastructure is critical. Unfortunately, Labor failed to match my commitment to the project, and it seems that the government has followed through by rejecting a regional community and local infrastructure program funding application for this project. In fact, my opponent at the last federal election would not even commit to it.

On Friday, 22 May, I heard from the proponents, who were absolutely devastated that their high-quality application had been knocked back by the federal government. This project has a considerable history. Prior to the local government amalgamations in Queensland, Hervey Bay City Council committed $1 million and land to the project—a commitment later reaffirmed by the newly amalgamated Fraser Coast Regional Council. The Queensland government also made $1.5 million available to the project, and many service clubs in town have been actively fundraising for it. All that was missing was the Commonwealth contribution under the RLCIP criteria. The project fitted that criteria beautifully. The community centre would have been a hub for a number of social services for children and youth, as well as counselling, mentoring and referral services and other information outlets. These would be delivered by semi-government organisations and NGOs. The proponents had already developed a plan for construction, costs were completed and two weeks ago the building permit was lodged. This is a shovel-ready project. It is an environmentally keen project with a six-star rating. This would have helped to create jobs in Hervey Bay while also providing much needed civic infrastructure. It has now been left high and dry due to some bureaucratic decision.

When we talk about vibrant regional communities, of course a robust local community is important. But what is also important in towns and cities are good places for people to live, where residents can enjoy quality of life and, if they fall into difficulties, be referred to proper services. One thing that is desperately needed in Hervey Bay is a community centre—a place where people can come together for assistance, support and guidance. I have spoken to a number of people about the funding knock-back and have given them an assurance that I will seek further information from the minister and the parliamentary secretary and that I will continue to fight to get Commonwealth funding. I put on the record the position that the community finds itself in, thanks to this decision. These words are direct quotes from a local resident—they are not mine. They state:

Presently, services in our community are delivered in a hodge-podge of inaccessible facilities, some of which are of asbestos laden.

Some people have access to emergency relief and others confidential services in parking lots, because they cannot fiscally get into a facility. Other services are forced to pay commercial scale rents, directly impacting on the level of service available to the homeless, the aged, challenged families and other targeted consumers.

In a community that has almost nothing; where jobs are few and far between at the best of times, we stand to lose in excess of $2.5 million funding and a valuable community asset because the Commonwealth would not partner with us on this project.

As news of this poor decision becomes publicly known, people in our community will be justifiably outraged.

Bearing these words in mind, I urge the minister and the parliamentary secretary, who I might say have been very good to me to this point, to support this project and do the right thing for the people of Hervey Bay.