Drought projects approval in doubt

Drought projects approval in doubt


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REGIONAL and rural councils that received approval to access the federal government's second-round Drought Communities Program funding are faced with uncertainty on whether or not projects will be approved, after funding has been withheld until after the federal election.

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REGIONAL and rural councils that received approval to access the federal government's second-round Drought Communities Program funding are faced with uncertainty on whether or not projects will be approved, with funding withheld until after the federal election.

The District Council of Peterborough and the Flinders Ranges Council were given access to $1 million for eligible community projects two weeks ago but were advised that while government departments were in caretaker mode, project approval was on hold.

Opposition regional services spokesperson Stephen Jones said Labor was aware of increased community concern about the program's operation after the federal election.

"Eligible projects submitted to June 30 will be funded," he said.

"If elected, we will review its operation to ensure it is delivering the relief that drought-affected councils are supposed to be getting."

But federal Liberal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said the latest councils to receive funding were not required to have projects submitted by June 30.

"That is a date the Labor party has decided and the funding has already been budgeted for," he said.

"I could not imagine funding for these communities would be removed - there will be blood on the floor if it is," he said.

Flinders Ranges Council's mayor Peter Slattery said he had also not been advised of a project submission deadline.

"We have not had any advice on that from the federal government but we will submit projects as soon as possible," he said.

"Obviously we cannot be certain that we will receive funding but we are pretty confident.

"I think that whoever is elected will uphold the funding commitment because it would be a pretty bold move to withdraw funding from a community that are badly drought-affected - we have basically been promised it."

District Council of Peterborough chief executive officer Peter McGuinness has submitted project applications but they did not make it to the "approval table."

"We have been told that while government is in caretaker mode funding agreements are unable to be signed," he said.

"It has not been confirmed in writing - it is purely verbal but we do believe there is a strong possibility that funding will still be available to us despite who is in government."

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