Fund a 'small but timely kicker'

A NEW $48.5 million Federal Government grant program for tourism development in regional areas will only support projects costing less than $250,000, independent Rob Oakeshott said on Thursday.

Along with other independent MP Tony Windsor, Mr Oakeshott helped secure the regional area-specific fund after the government backed down on proposed tourism tax increases in June.

Mr Oakeshott said the fund would provide a "small but timely kicker" for regional areas dependent on tourism that were hurting due to the high Australia dollar.

But he was concerned some areas might use it to replace or build small infrastructure projects, usually the responsibility of local councils, rather than investing in tourism infrastructure.

"While I'd prefer the funds would go to stimulating more bed nights in regional areas, the government did want it to be infrastructure projects.

"So, hopefully, this money will go to small projects that could help regional communities upgrade tired infrastructure, or build new facilities for tourists to use.

"But there is a danger that the money could actually be spent on public toilet blocks in small towns so, hopefully, that sort of spending will be prevented."

Mr Oakeshott said the fund should be operational in October, with state governments and the industry to be consulted, as well as an advisory panel to be set up before the program would open for submissions.

He said the eventual shape of the grants program would be very similar to the current T-QUAL grant program, which recently provided $6.7 million for tourism projects nation-wide.



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