Page MP Janelle Saffin.
Page MP Janelle Saffin.

Local MPs out for share of $9.9b

THE Northern Rivers is already swooping to grab its share of $9.9 billion in regional funding announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard as part of her deal to win the support of NSW Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

Southern Cross University got the ball rolling with hopes a new $500 million round of the Commonwealth’s Education Investment Fund might help pay for a new school of engineering at the university’s Lismore campus.

The idea has the backing of Page MP Janelle Saffin and is one of a stack of suggestions she has for ways the money could be spent on the Northern Rivers.

Southern Cross University Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Lee said the school of engineering idea was in its early stages.

“The announcement of a new $500 million round of the Education Investment Fund for regional Australia is very good news,” Professor Lee said in a written statement.

“We are investigating the possibility of developing an engineering school in collaboration with a metropolitan university as one of a number of science-related initiatives we would put up in a bid for funding.

“It is very early days and there is a lot of work still to do.”

Also at the top of Ms Saffin’s list of projects was funding for the stage three redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital.

Ms Saffin said she imagined Federal funding for stage three would need to be delivered in partnership with the State Government.

The re-designed Federal/State health funding arrangements, which would have the Commonwealth put up 60 per cent of the money for projects such as the redevelopment, was due to come into effect in July.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell was keen to see the Margaret Olley Arts Centre revived with a slice of the new infrastructure funding announced by Ms Gillard this week.

The project missed out on Federal funding previously, forcing the council to put it on the backburner. But Cr Dowell said the announcement meant there was new hope of securing the $4.5 million the council needed from the Government to pay for the project.

Cr Dowell said the arts centre was her second priority, after the Base Hospital redevelopment, which she described as a regional priority.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot was also asked for her ‘wish list’ for her electorate.

However, in a written response, she nominated only projects that had already been funded, such as her election commitments and projects already under way, including the Byron Bay Sports and Cultural Facility, the Pacific Highway upgrade at Sexton Hill, and social housing projects.

Ms Elliot also pointed to ‘all the investment going into schools which is already delivering over $110 million over 205 projects and will continue to provide needed services and infrastructure like the Trades Training Centre in Murwillumbah’.

“I am also committed to delivering for small businesses by providing money for increased services in training and investment and through improved tax breaks,” she said.

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