MISSED OUT: Tony Hensley, Clare Gibson, Meg Luckie, Lorraine Leuckel and Diann Lannoy at the LIS171111TOWER01.jpg
MISSED OUT: Tony Hensley, Clare Gibson, Meg Luckie, Lorraine Leuckel and Diann Lannoy at the LIS171111TOWER01.jpg Doug Eaton

State government plays Scrooge over marine tower funding

THE Ballina Marine Rescue unit has been knocked back by the State Government over a request for $500,000 to help build its new tower.

It was the second time NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres had refused to provide funding for the $1.5 million project after Ballina MP Don Page approached Mr Ayres' office in September.

Ballina Shire Council has been sitting on a finalised plan for the increasingly urgent project since late 2013.

In a letter rejecting the request, Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Emergency Services Niall Blair wrote that the department already provided financial support for the unit's operations, implying it wasn't responsible for new infrastructure.

But despite the disappointing news, Ballina MP Don Page and Ballina mayor David Wright said people should not assume that the funding knock-back by Mr Ayres' officer was the end of hope for the project.

Mr Page said he was pursuing "other avenues" and was "quietly optimistic" he would have some positive news in the near future.

The council has also applied for $1 million in funding under the first round of the Federal Government's new National Stronger Regions Fund to meet the total cost of $1.5 million.

Cr Wright remained confident because the plan had been "shovel-ready" for two years and finding $500,000 was a "no-brainer" for thegovernment.

"I really couldn't believe they could go to an election (next March) without doing something about this tower. It's been promised so many times," he said.

"It's an essential piece of infrastructure for marine safety. The plans are done and it's ready to go.

"I really think it would be difficult for the Nationals to get (back) in if they don't.

"I'm fairly hopeful they will fund it."

Cr Wright also noted it was the only project Ballina Shire Council had applied for under the Federal Government's National Stronger Regions Fund.

Complicating the matter, however, is that any StateGovernment funding commitment may hinge on whether the Federal Government approves the $1 million application made by Ballina Shire Council under the National Stronger Regions Fund, which doesn't become available until March.

And Federal MP for Page Kevin Hogan was unable to hint at whether the project had been earmarked for funding under the first round of the National Stronger Regions Fund, essentially saying it was out of his hands.

"Each application will stand on its own merits," he said. "I certainly think this is a worthy one."