Press Conference: Building Better Regions Fund grant: Temora Airport

With: Cr Rick Firman OAM, Mayor, Temora Shire Council

Michael McCormack: I’m here at Temora Airport to announce $5.35 million under the Building Better Regions Fund to upgrade this important facility. The Temora aerodrome is such a hive of activity, particularly when there’s Warbirds Downunder – an event which attracts 22,000 visitors to the Riverina and specifically to Temora.

Temora is a go-ahead town. Temora is bustling with economic activity. And this Building Better Regions Fund announcement today is only going to enhance Temora’s economic activity, particularly here at the airport. Of course, we have the Temora Aviation Museum and I know how important that is to this community. I know how important this airport is to this community. I’ve landed at this airport and I know that it is in need of an upgrade. I know how important this upgrade is. This money, this $5.35 million, with a contribution as well from the Temora Shire Council, is going to strengthen, to reconstruct the actual runway and the taxiways. Most importantly it’s also going to provide the construction of 1000 metres, a kilometre, of drainage works. And of course we’ve seen just in recent years how important that would have been when the Temora airport went underwater.

We want this airport to be its best self. We want it to be in operation at all times (inaudible) particularly when we have the Warbirds Downunder but all the time. It’s only going to increase the economic capacity here at Temora Shire Council. It’s a great announcement - $5.35 million as part of the Building Better Regions Fund which so far has allocated $641 million for projects just like this, right across regional Australia.

This only happens when you’ve got a Liberal and Nationals’ Government, making sure that there’s a strong economy. And I have to say, these sorts of projects – they will go under a Bill Shorten-led Labor Government. Building Better Regions – these sorts of funding will go under a Labor Government. We’ve seen it just recently when Labor opposed the Future Drought Fund. So if they’re committed, prepared to slash a drought fund, they will certainly take the knife to these sorts of programs which build community capacity particularly in these regional towns.

I know, as the Nationals Leader, as the Member for Riverina, how important these country towns are. They are the lifeblood of our nation. Their economic output is second to none. They help build a better nation. And when our regions are strong, so too is our nation. I’m delighted to be here with the Mayor of Temora, Rick Firman. He understands just how important this funding announcement is today. He’s been lobbying me for some time. He’s been campaigning for an upgrade to the airport. Well, today we’ve delivered. I know how important it is for him. I know that the General Manager, Gary Lavelle, is now going to get on and to exchange contracts and make sure this work gets underway very very soon. We want it to start, we want it to be in time for the next big fly-in. It’s important work. It means a lot to Temora. It means a lot to me. I might ask the Temora Council Mayor to make a few comments as well.

Question: How excited are you about this now?

Rick Firman: I have to say this is absolutely fantastic. I’m trying to contain my enthusiasm. But to you, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McCormack, thank you so much from Temora Shire Council and the community. I’m frankly overwhelmed with this news. It’s something that obviously is crucial to us. The Deputy Prime Minister has already explained how much it means to the Shire, both in terms of the economy and tourism and so on. But it also ensures the future of this place. Remember when construction starts it means jobs as well. That is just so exciting. But short of stalking the Deputy Prime Minister, we’re very very grateful. I know the delegations that we’ve had and my fellow councillors have certainly been doing their best, and our staff. Look, at the end of the day, thank you – thank you so much.

This is very exciting news and a great start to the day, that’s for sure.

Question: Rick, can you tell us again how this money will be spent?

Rick Firman: We’ve got upgrades to various taxiways, drainage work and so on. You’re talking five plus million dollars’ worth of works. We are going to be partnering with the Federal Government and I think (inaudible) Deputy Prime Minister that when we work together or partner together, we can achieve so much. And that’s why we’re not just putting our hand out for all of it – most of it, yes, but we’re putting our hand out and saying: Please help us ensure that this crucial asset in Temora Shire thrives into the future. So we just can’t wait to get the work started.

Question: Rick, when will all the works start? How long will it take? When do you want to get all the work done?

Rick Firman: As soon as we can exchange contracts, that’s exactly when we’re going to get firing. So there’s a lot of detail to be worked out but we’re on the front foot and I have to say, we have to acknowledge our staff. Council are very grateful to our staff for putting together strong submissions. We as politicians, as councillors, can do the lobbying, but we need our staff to actually do the hard yakka and put in the submissions. So we must take our hats off to our staff. That doesn’t mean they can ask for a pay rise, no, I might add (laughter)

Question: Will construction start within a year?

Rick Firman: Oh yes, very (inaudible); as soon as we can get contracts exchanged we are going to get…we have to do that and we will.

Question: Michael, you said that as a result of the federal election, that…

Michael McCormack: This money’s good. It has been budgeted. This Round Three of the Building Better Regions Fund was in the last Budget, May last year. And you know what – on April 2 we’re going to produce a surplus Budget and I’m hoping there will be even more funding for regional Australia. I know there will be more funding for regional Australia in that Budget, because we are a Government that is committed to regional Australia. We are a Government which cares about regional Australia. The fact is we’ve got a lot of regional Australians as MPs, fighting hard, lobbying, campaigning for these types of funds, for these types of programs and projects. And I know when you get a town like Temora, when it’s going well, Riverina is going well. When Riverina is going well, NSW is. And when NSW is going well, so too is our nation.

These sorts of projects build so much community capacity. They draw visitors. We want people to come to these towns. Look, the drought is taking its toll. That’s why we want people from Sydney and elsewhere to come to the Riverina, to come to Temora, to visit Warbirds Downunder. To visit towns like Temora – they’ve got so much to offer. There’s so much to see and do in the Riverina. I want to build these sorts of towns. They’re fantastic. Temora already prides itself as being the friendliest town in NSW, if not, Rick, Australia. And we want to make sure that a lot of people get to enjoy the friendliness, get to see this fantastic Warbirds Downunder. But as I say, it’s more than just a fly-in event of a weekend – this is also about commercial and charter airlines coming in to Temora. This is about crop dusting and all those sorts of things – those pilots have the capacity, having the safety aspects. I’ve landed on this runway and let me tell you, in parts there are a few bumps and we want to make sure that the runway, the taxiways are as smooth as they can be. That’s why they’re going to be reconstructed. That’s why they’re going to be rebuilt. That’s why we’re rebuilding and reconstructing the taxiways. We’re making it better. We’re making it safer. And we’re building a better Temora.

Question: Michael, do you have any (inaudible) your announcement for Cowra?

Michael McCormack: Yes. We’ve just announced a new grant for the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre. The timber shingles on the roof have been there since 1979 when those gardens, when that cultural centre was first built. It was upgraded in 1986. Those gardens commemorate the four Australians and the 231 Japanese warriors and other interned people who died during the 1944 breakout. That’s one of the most disastrous events in Australian military history. It’s being commemorated by Cowra. They have those beautiful gardens. They are such an iconic tourist destination. The fact is that roof needed replacing. So it is going to be replaced, with $307,000 of Federal Government money. We are going to replace the roof. It’s going to give it a life for more than 100 years. And so we want those gardens to be visited by people for the next 100 years and indeed beyond.

So we’ve given the cultural centre a new life. It’s going to create four jobs in the construction phase, but it’s going to make sure that that cultural centre is there for many many decades to come, to commemorate the great friendship, understanding and respect that exists between the Japanese people and the Australian people. Japan has its only military foreign cemetery at Cowra. So it’s a place where many Japanese people and Australians of course visit each year. The gardens there are some of the most exquisite gardens in all of Australia. They should be visited.

I’m pleased that under the Building Better Regions Fund that the cultural centre is going to get a new roof. It’s a good announcement. It’s going to be good for Cowra and it’s going to be good for businesses.

Pleasure. Not at all.