Onus is on Federal Govt to deliver on Ballina tower

Kevin Hogan MP, Federal Member of Page, and, inset, the Northern Star’s front page on January 3.
Kevin Hogan, Page MP Mireille Merlet-Shaw

THE State of NSW has pledged to cough up its share of the new Ballina Marine Rescue tower, and now the onus is on the Federal Government to deliver the remaining cash.

An application for the project is currently before Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development staff, who will decide whether it meets the criteria of the government's new National Stronger Regions Fund.

Once that process finishes, the political decisions begin.

A panel of senior MPs, including Deputy PM and Minister for Regional Development Warren Truss, will decide which projects get up this time, and which don't.

There are three other projects in Federal Page MP Kevin Hogan's electorate: they include the Casino Livestock Exchange ($3.5 million), the Lismore gallery ($2 million), and a project in Grafton.

But Mr Hogan wouldn't be drawn on which one he would like to see get first dibs on funding.

And if none of the projects got any funding in this round, Mr Hogan said there were still four more rounds worth $800 million.

"I would love all the projects in Page to get up immediately in round one, but we'll wait and see what happens," he said.

"I think this (the Marine Rescue tower) is a really worthy project and it has my full support, and I am happy to give that in writing to the independent committee.

"I know how unsafe the Ballina Bar is. I've been inside the building and it needs replacing. It's a very important piece of infrastructure in our local community.

"The decision-making process is, however, independent."

Ballina mayor David Wright said Ballina had pinned its hopes on the tower and $1 million was a relatively modest sum.

"There's no way we could build it without Federal money," he said.

Cr Wright noted there was a long history of pollies promising to fund the tower with no results.

"Barnaby Joyce promised to pay for the whole lot four years ago, the first time Kevin (Hogan) ran," he said.

"The last election (former Page MP) Janelle Saffin promised $750,000.

"We've had all these offers, and we've been bitten every time.

"That's why we made sure we had the $1 million there ready to go."

Cr Wright said the economic case for the tower was strong, and it would be the lynchpin for future infrastructure and engineering works, such as dredging and ultimately a Ballina marina.

"It's going to be the Mecca for tourism and the Port of Ballina," he said.

"We're trying to bring back our marine industry, and that will do it."


It's a stunt: Labor candidate

LABOR candidate for Ballina Paul Spooner has labelled the Nationals' promise to fund the Ballina Marine Rescue tower a "suspicious" pre-election stunt.

"The Liberal-National Government has had almost four years to act - and finally with less than three months until the election, they've delivered a pittance," he said.

Mr Spooner said there was no guarantee the NSW Government would actually have to deliver the cash because the Federal money the tower needed wouldn't materialise until after the election.

No promises to fund the tower have yet been made by NSW Labor, with Mr Spooner saying that he would be "taking the case" to new leader Luke Foley.