The Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce has told an inquiry into regional Australia about the ‘hoops’ it has had to jump through to gain grants for the region, and urged for further consultation regarding funding and project decisions that affect local communities.
Speaking broadly about Tumbarumba’s economy and its future, President of the Chamber Ken Dale told the Select Committee on Regional Australia that problems arise when government spending is not directed to the communities where “money is thrown.”
He pointed to Snowy 2.0 as an example of this, saying that it has been a bonus for the eastern side of the Snowy Mountains, but for Tumbarumba, “it’s nothing.”
“Even though Future Generation has consulted and helped us to try and develop it, we had the unfortunate circumstances that during the bushfires our main access to that market closed—that is, the Elliott Way. That cut the travel time,” Mr Dale said.
“We were the closest town to the building of Snowy 2.0, but we are no longer. Travel to that area has to either be through Tumut or Jindabyne and around that way. Tumbarumba has seen no benefits from that.
“The Elliott Way was closed due to the bushfires and subsidence from floods and that sort of thing, but what has been done to fix it? Very little.
“Tumut may have benefited from it, because it was a natural hub through that way, but for Tumbarumba there has been nothing.”
Mr Dale said that any benefit Tumbarumba may receive is via an interconnector joining Lobs Hole to Wagga to produce electricity flow into the grid, but in this situation, Tumbarumba was “dictated to.”
“We weren’t consulted. The path of that was through prime farmland,” he told the committee.
“What I want to indicate to you is that, where money is thrown at a project rather than targeted with known benefits, it’s not a good situation.
“We need to have these projects that are targeted and that are going to have goals and aims that are completed.”
Mr Dale used the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail as a case study for when targeted government spending on local projects can have “untold benefits”, providing “growth and … enthusiasm.”
“It’s a project which has generated 13 businesses either to open or expand. Members have experience and are involved in hospitality and accommodation, and have developed an economic model which is based around the rail trail,” he said.
“And it’s booming; we’ve had over 25,000 visitors since the opening of the rail trail a year ago.
“You can imagine the economic effect that this has had on our community and the growth of tourism.”
Mr Dale said the Chamber sees cycling tourism as a booming industry to take advantage of.
The Chamber President also told the committee about the ‘hoops’ they had to jump through to attain a $400,000 grant to repair Khancoban Hall, with many stages and funding delivered in three instalments.
He said that this level of accountability should be seen in all three tiers of government.
“I’m not going to play politics or bring politics into this table with regard to our position, but there have been decisions made by state, federal and local governments that have been to the detriment of Tumbarumba,” Mr Dale said.
“We understand that decisions have to be made or removed, but, if you’re going to do something, please consult with us. Please consult with the people who are involved in it.
“Please refer to the people who know what they’re talking about.”