Incumbent mayor and mayoral candidate Jack Dempsey requested funding for the Bundaberg region under a COVID-19 recovery stimulus.
Incumbent mayor and mayoral candidate Jack Dempsey requested funding for the Bundaberg region under a COVID-19 recovery stimulus.

Cr Dempsey requests coronavirus recovery stimulus

AS THE coronavirus races its way around the world, governments at all levels are working to minimise the impact it will have on the economy.

To this end, incumbent mayor and mayoral candidate Jack Dempsey this week wrote a letter to deputy prime minister Michael McCormack requesting a COVID-19 stimulus package for the region.

With council in caretaker mode, Bundaberg Regional Council executive director of strategic projects and economic development, Ben Artup, responded to questions sent to Cr Dempsey about how the projects listed in the letter would help the region recover.

“It’s mainly capital construction projects,” Mr Artup said.

“We know once all the funding flows through for incomes and businesses, eventually we’re going to need some real investment happening in the region until private investment picks up again.

“We put together what’s essentially a big long list of projects that we know we could get ready in the next 12 months, it would need us to start building stuff.

“What we’re calling out from the Federal Government is we know down the track in a couple of months we’re going to need real stuff happening in the economy in terms of projects that can be delivered.

“We just put up our long list – our long laundry list I guess – of projects we believe we could get ready.

“Obviously, we can’t do them all, but there’s a long list of stuff there we could pick from.”

Funding was requested for 50 projects, including $10 million for 10 Gigaberg, $20m for stage 1 of the ANZAC park water recreational facility, $15m for a CBD multideck car park and $50m for a sewer retrofit in coastal areas.

Small projects included a number of works at Gin Gin, Childers and Bargara and upgrades to the Botanic Gardens and Alexandra Park Zoo.

Initial estimates put the total cost of the projects at over $400m.

Bundaberg Regional Council’s Head of Economic Development Strategic Projects Ben Artup.
Bundaberg Regional Council’s Head of Economic Development Strategic Projects Ben Artup.

“There’s 50 projects in total up to $410 million and all those projects are in various stages of scoping and understanding,” Mr Artup said.

“There’s a couple there we’ve got firm numbers on, the others are just estimates of things.

“It’s a very big number and some of those figures would need more due diligence if those projects were prioritised for funding.”

And while funding for such projects might normally come from other grants, he said it was council’s belief that within six to 12 months, there wouldn’t be other funding grants council would usually go for.

“They’ll all be diverted to the COVID-19 crisis and getting the economy up and running again and stimulating it, a bit like what they did for the GFC,” Mr Artup said.

“Everything was just the economic stimulus package, there was different things you could build just to get construction going.

“We just know that’s coming so we thought – and we’ve already had requests from different government agencies about what other projects down the track that we’ve got ready for delivery – so we put this back to the Federal Government saying ‘Well, here’s a list of things we’d like to start building in the next 12 months that we can get some funding for’.

“It’s basically an economic stimulus we’re calling out for to build stuff in the region across these projects.”

And while the requests are being made by the incumbent mayor just days before the local council elections, Mr Artup said the decision of whether to accept it would be one made by the new council.

“If we got funding before the weekend, in that scenario it could create an issue, but we’d work through that with the council and say ‘Listen, this is the history to this funding. It was promised to us this week, and we’ve got a new council next week.’,” he said.

“If the new council didn’t want to accept that funding that was promised this week, that’s a decision that council could make, but I can’t imagine too many councillors in the new council would say no to federal funding if it was coming to our region, getting it all new and trying to get things going in the region.”