WA Labor lines up farm funds
The WA Government will use Royalties for Regions money to boost agricultural employment.
Alannah MacTiernan - Regional Development Minister in the new McGowan Government - says the previous administration was too focused on the “beautification” of towns, which did not do enough to increase employment options.
Ms MacTiernan said the $1 billion Royalties for Regions pool will be redirected to more energy projects and agricultural research.
“Many of these ‘supertowns’, which have had very considerable investment in town-centre beautification, won't be seeing increases in population,” she said.
“At the end of the day, the only way we are going to get people in regional centres is if they can have a job and there are employment opportunities.
“This is much harder than planting a row of petunias up the main street and it is going to require us to really be engaging with community.”
Royalties for Regions has delivered more than $7 billion in funding to regional areas since it was set up in 2008, setting aside 25 per cent of mining royalty revenue.
It is the continuation of an election pledge from WA Labor, which criticised the former government for its investment in infrastructure in small towns without a sustainable business case.
Labor said a number of towns had been left with recreation centres and other buildings that they could not afford to maintain.
The decision has been welcomed by agricultural lobby group WA Farmers.
But it is not all good news for non-metro WA, with reports that the state’s tight finances may not be able to cover recommendation for a standalone rural fire service.
A review of a devastating fire in Yarloop last year recommended an independent rural fire service be created.
Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan has conceded that the precarious financial position will make it unlikely.
“All options are on the table ... but we have to bear in mind the cost,” he said.
Premier Mark McGowan last month said he was unwilling to spend millions of dollars on administration rather than firefighting.