IWC Stage 2 development in jeopardy as government turns its back on Bundy hitting jobs, economic growth

THE much-needed Stage 2 IWC Health & Wellbeing Centre development in Bundaberg is in jeopardy after the whole region missed out almost completely in the latest round of Federal Government Stronger Regions funding.

IWC, which is community-run and charitable, announced today that as a result of the whole Bundaberg region receiving just 0.31 per cent of the total $126.5 million allocated nationally, it had been forced to take the major project off the table. It means hundreds of potential jobs will not now be created and a huge $43.5 million financial injection into the regional economy vanishes.

"The Government has pledged to invest $1 billion over five years for projects that will ‘deliver economic and social benefits’ to regions and ‘strengthen communities’, to use its own words,” said IWC General Manager Wayne Mulvany, pictured below on the IWC Stage 2 Development site. 

"But when the news around successful submissions for Round Three of Stronger Regions was made on Friday 7 October with $126.5 million allocated, the whole Bundaberg region received just 0.31 per cent, or just over $400,000, of that sum. This is outrageous given Bundaberg’s high unemployment and poor economic situation.”

Mr Mulvany said action must be taken to remedy the situation, or the community would continue to suffer.

Bundaberg region is one of the government’s identified areas of highest need, with its own social index, SEIFA, showing at least 80 per cent of people in the region are among the most disadvantaged in Australia.

"Through the proposed $14.8 million IWC Stage Two Development, which has been approved by council, a great investment opportunity for Bundaberg region is knocking on the doors of government – an opportunity that ticks all of the boxes for Stronger Regions funding and state economic growth strategies. But our application for $6.5 million towards the $14.8 million total cost has been rejected,” said Mr Mulvany.

"It is not just about IWC. All our entire region has in fact received through this massive funding exercise is an upgrade of an existing park at Bargara, including a new toilet block. How does that compare to a project that would deliver almost 200 jobs during construction, causing more than 600 flow-on jobs in the community, and create 46 permanent long-term jobs, as would the IWC Stage 2 Development?

"It’s all very well for the government to say there was a large number of submissions, but how can our region miss out so badly? And how can our politicians stand by and let it happen?”

Mr Mulvany said the decision by the Federal Government to turn its back on Bundaberg had forced IWC to make a tough decision around the proposed Stage 2 development.

"Right now the Stage 2 Development of the IWC Health & Wellbeing Centre has to be off the table for us. We are a community-run, charitable and non-government organisation delivering what our people need and want – we have 12,500 Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients and growing.

"Many of our services urgently need to expand to meet community demand and growing waiting lists, particularly around the treatment and case management of chronic disease, and this is why we have moved on the Stage 2 development planning. But the Federal Government has effectively tied our hands around Stage 2 because we cannot, as a not-for-profit organisation, afford the whole $14.8 million ourselves.”  

Mr Mulvany called for immediate action from the region’s politicians, Federal Member Keith Pitt and State Members Leanne Donaldson and Stephen Bennett, urging them to join together to fight for their region regardless of party politics.

"This is scandalous. People in our region should be horrified about the lack of interest in Federal Government around Bundaberg region. IWC has already asked our Keith Pitt for an urgent meeting to see what can be done – our community needs to fight back and demand a fair go.

"It should also be noted that Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson would not support the IWC submission with a letter of support, but now we call on her to put aside her politicking around community projects and stand up for the region she has been elected to promote and defend.”

Mr Mulvany pointed to comments by Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss at the launch of the Stronger Regions Round Three funding. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development said:  "I encourage applicants to put forward projects that demonstrate strong economic outcomes and address disadvantage, to give themselves the best opportunity for success.”

The Federal Government’s guidelines around the funding also said: "The Fund is investing in crucial infrastructure projects that are being conceived by local communities.”

Mr Mulvany said: "This Stage 2 development is a direct response to community demand, and designed in consultation with the community.”

"We were told it needed to be ‘shovel-ready’, with permissions in place, so we put in a lot of work acquiring and clearing the site adjacent to the Stage 1 Health & Wellbeing Centre in Bundaberg, and then gaining Development Approval. Now this.

"Housing Industry Association (HIA) modelling shows that this project would have a direct cost benefit to our regional economy of $43.5 million during the life of the construction alone.

"But this decision means that for IWC, the Stage 2 Development has to be shelved. No new jobs, no expansion of community-driven health care to our most at-risk and disadvantaged. Our hands are tied.”