The Bundian Way project has reached a crisis point after being deemed ineligible to apply for the Australian government Regional Jobs and Investment Package (RJIP).
With the announcement of the (RJIP), Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly nominated a representative from Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) to sit on the Local Investment Committee for the RJIP to put forward the Bundian Way as a viable project for funding.
The RJIP had $220million to help regions in Australia diversify their economies, stimulate long-term economic growth and deliver sustainable employment, with $20million allocated for the Far South Coast.
“The Eden LALC was excited that it would finally be able to establish its long proposed Bundian Way Cultural Tourism Enterprise; ‘Bundian Way Experiences’,” Bundian Way project manager Noel Whittem said.
Mr Whittem said the Bundian Way project’s Cultural Tourism Enterprise fit the criteria for the RJIP’s Business Innovation Stream.
“The project ticked all the boxes and seemed to satisfy the program outcomes, including the generation of sustainable Aboriginal employment and the stimulation of the local and regional economies, yet we were deemed ineligible to apply under the Business Innovation Stream,”
According to Mr Whittem, the application was developed with a “verbal commitment” from state member for Bega Andrew Constance.
“Mr Constance promised that he would sort the NSW state government’s funding contribution under the Regional Growth and Tourism Fund (RGETF) and the NSW Cultural Fund.”
After continued negotiations and many weeks of preparing detailed costings and comprehensive project plans, the Bundian Way project was informed by the Commonwealth that their eligibility was dependent on a significant monetary contribution by the LALC.
“We were told at the 11th hour that the Eden LALC would need to contribute 50 per cent of the matching funding required under the RJIP, funds that the Eden LALC just didn’t have. The particular condition under the RJIP guidelines was very unclear and ambiguous at best.”
The NSW governments ‘South East and Tablelands Regional Plan 2036’, highlights the need for the three tiers of government to collaborate to get the Bundian Way established. Mr Whittem said he was disappointed that the commitments documented in this plan have not been met.
“In the end there was no formal commitment forthcoming from the NSW government for the necessary matching funding anyway, so the Eden LALC was ultimately let down by both the state and Commonwealth governments,” Mr Whittem said.
Mr Whittem was also further aggrieved by the recent RJIP funding announcements.
“It’s a further insult now to learn that Shoalhaven Starches, an entity of a multinational corporation (Manildra Group) with operations all over Australia, through Asia and office suites in the USA, has been awarded nearly $3million under the RJIP to develop robotic technology.
“It’ s unfair that the Bundian Way Project has to compete with a multinational corporation for such a limited amount of money,” he said.
It is now eagerly anticipated whether or not Dr Kelly’s plea for the Bundian Way to be funded through the state government’s $4.1billion windfall from the sale of its share of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to the Commonwealth, will be met.
“It would be a real shame to see the project fold. I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t want to see the Bundian Way up and running,” Mr Whittem said