It is a sign of the importance of Eden-Monaro to the Coalition that the Prime Minister flew into Merimbula to announce $1.2-million in federal funding. This is not a figure that would normally have Mr Turnbull hosting a press conference in a hangar and making a visit to a local cafe so far from one of our cities, I suspect.
The $1.2-million comes from the National Stronger Regions fund, which started in 2015 with funding of $1 billion over five years to fund priority infrastructure in regional and disadvantaged communities. This is money that was already earmarked for communities such as ours; no-one had to break into the piggy bank to get this money.
In fact we could be forgiven for thinking we were in the middle of a state election given the money coming from NSW for our region, $4.4 million for the airport and $29 million for the Port of Eden.
And what of the other federal money, the $10-million for the Port of Eden?
Well, even with our low interest rates, it should have been a nice little earner given that it has been sitting in the government coffers for almost three years.
The money was first placed in the federal government budget in 2013 and announced by the then sitting member, Labor’s Mike Kelly, in July 2013. After pressure from groups associated with the port’s development and a large advert in this paper, the Liberal candidate, Peter Hendy, agreed the Coalition government would honour the $10-million pledge.
Politics aside though, the money is there for infrastructure development, something that has been sadly lacking for some considerable time.
The combination of port development on the back of a booming cruise industry, and airport development on the back of growing export markets for our seafood and inbound tourism via the new air link between Singapore and Canberra could bring about dramatic changes to the area.
The development of the Port of Eden will bring benefits to the entire region as more cruise ships call in.
It won’t happen overnight; these are all long-term projects, somewhere between five and 10 years and onwards. Council will now have a vital role to play in overseeing works at the airport and perhaps more importantly enticing an airline such as Qantas or Virgin to look seriously at a market, before it has matured and reached that magic figure of 100,000 passengers a year.
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