Press conference with recipients of Building Better Regions Fund announcements

Michael McCormack: Well, it's a great day today because of the Building Better Regions Fund, a fund that has been put in place, certainly by The Nationals in government, but by the Liberal and Nationals Coalition. Today, we are announcing some of the projects that have been funded under the latest round.

Delighted that in the recent Budget, we put another $200 million towards another round of the Building Better Regions Fund and applications will be called for that particular stream later in the year.

But today, I'm really, really pleased that we have the Mayor of Temora, Rick Firman. I also have the Regional Development Australia Riverina representatives—Miriam Dayhew who is the Chair, and Rachel Whiting, the Director—as well as Richie Robinson from Riverina Murray Destinations here.

He, of course, is very much into tourism, as we all are.

But Rick Firman is here and he's just been delighted to find out that under the Building Better Regions Fund, under the latest round, that $3.685 million has been allocated to the Frank Whiddon Masonic Lodge, to build a new two-storey extension for 50 additional placements for aged care facilities at the Narraburra facility in Temora.

This is building on the recent announcement by Ken Wyatt when he made a national announcement here in Wagga Wagga in the Riverina about the 13,500 additional aged care places under the Aged Care Approvals Round, and of course applications are open for ACAR as we speak.

And I urge and encourage all aged care facilities—whether they're in the Riverina or Central West, or indeed anywhere throughout Australia—to apply for that round.

But this is a huge announcement for Temora. Temora, of course, is a growing and thriving and bustling community, but we need to look after our aged. We need to look after those people who have committed so much of their lives and done so much to help build community capacity in areas and towns such as Temora and elsewhere.

But it's good that these 50 additional places will be now part of Narraburra Lodge. It's good that they're going to be able to provide placements for Temora people who are in their twilight years who want to live in Temora where their family and friends are, who want to live in Temora, which prides itself on being, as the banner across the main street—Hoskins Street—suggests the friendliest town in New South Wales, and now it's the friendliest town in New South Wales with a new extended aged care facility.

Fifty additional places, building on the Frank Whiddon Masonic Lodge's 40-year commitment to Temora. Building on the ACAR approval round that we've just announced, with 13,500 additional placements for elderly people, residential places right across Australia. So this is good news.

And of course, also today I'm very, very delighted to announce that $25,000 of a $50,000 commitment has been announced for Destination Riverina Murray.

Now, we all know, because we live here, what a great place the Riverina is to visit. And Richie Robinson and Miriam Dayhew and Rachel Whiting all know that too.

But we want to tell more people and we want to make sure that businesses are prepared and ready for an influx of tourists, which of course Riverina Murray is always looking to build upon. We want to make sure that people outside the Riverina know just what a great place this is.

I'm delighted that in the recent tourism figures, that 46 per cent of overseas tourists to Australia visit a regional area. But we want to build on that, and we know that Wagga Wagga, indeed the entire Riverina region, has so much to see and do, so much to offer tourists and we want to build on that.

That's why the Federal Government—under the Community Investments Stream of the Building Better Regions Fund—has allocated $25,000 of a $50,000 commitment to that program. To help businesses get ready, to build leadership, to enable people to know just how best to sell the Riverina Murray, which as I say again, is a great place to visit.

So, I might ask now Cr Rick Firman, the Mayor of Temora, to say a few words about the Frank Whiddon funding announcement today—$3.685 million towards that particular program. Then I'll get my fine friends from RDA and Richie Robinson to speak about the tourism investment.

But they're good funding measures. They're only made possible because The Nationals are fighting hard in government. We're delivering. And of course it's all about jobs. It's all about jobs, it's all about regional investment because that's what we do when we're in government. And rest assured, these sorts of funding announcements will continue because of the additional $200 million announced in the recent Budget for the next round of the Building Better Regions. I'll ask Rick Firman to make a few comments.

Rick Firman: This is very exciting. I have to say, I can't wipe the grin off my dial and to you, Mr Deputy Prime Minister, thank you so much, and I mean that most sincerely, on behalf of every single resident of Temora Shire and particularly our seniors.

And this really means that we can keep our seniors at home because let's remember, some have to actually leave our community because of the lack of beds and the facilities.

So obviously this $3 million plus grant is going to allow us to rebuild Greenstone Lodge right next to Narraburra Lodge and so it just makes sense. You've got staff and so on that can just, you know, hop, skip and jump away as opposed to a completely different location.

So, to say thank you seems an understatement, but this is really special stuff. And again, all I can say is thank you. We will not waste a cent and Council will work side by side with Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes to make sure that our seniors are cared for in the best possible location. So again, thank you.

Michael McCormack: Well done.

Journalist: Can you give us a bit of a breakdown of tomorrow? When you talk about the senior population how significant is that number and community aspect?

Rick Firman: The seniors, of course, a very significant number. I think we're talking around, just off the top of my head, they're around 60 per cent of the population and remember we have a community that are rich in seniors, but we're also rich in other, youngsters and so on and we're growing as of the last Census.

There was some 300 people-plus where our Shire grew, and again, that wasn't just seniors, that was also young people choosing to either come back home or relocate as well.

So, at the end of the day our seniors are very, very dear to us, we cherish them, we love them and this is very special news. I can't begin to tell you.

I was trying to get this out of the Deputy Prime Minister last night. His office rang me on late Friday night and said to be here this morning, but the Deputy Prime Minister was tight-lipped until just a moment ago, and it was very, very frustrating but worth the wait!

Journalist: I know it's early days, but I guess this has been a desire of Temora's for a while. Do you have any idea what this extension is going to do different?

Rick Firman: Well, we actually had the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Wyatt, the Aged Care Minister for our Federal Government, in Temora Shire recently and it was a great meeting and actually I mean … our Deputy PM's been to Narraburra and Greenstone several times of course over the years and I know you really enjoy being there, but obviously, yes, it's a significant structure. It's going to be, as I said, two stories with a lift and every cent is going to be spent wisely and as I said this means so much.

And let's remember our staff, every one that works in the aged care industry, they are very special people. They couldn't do it for the meagre wages that they earn. They do it because they have a very, very big heart and because they love our seniors and again I am thrilled to bits to be frank. I'm thrilled to bits.

Journalist: And how is this funding going to go to support our tourism industry?

Richie Robinson: This funding is an excellent injection into the region's tourism industry and we're really pleased that the Building Better Regions Fund have recognised the program we put forward with RDA Riverina.

It's a really up-skilled tourism businesses right across the region to having to sell more product than their local businesses here, but also take them to the next level from selling product internationally, but also just driving tourism across the region in general.

Journalist: So these funds I guess are going to go towards marketing?

Richie Robinson: We'll be looking to select a small group of businesses right across the region to take them to the next level and that will include marketing, training, but also looking at options in international markets as well and, yeah, just looking to take tourism businesses up to the next level.

Journalist: And how will these businesses apply or do they have to apply to get a slice of this?

Richie Robinson: We'll put together an EOI process with RDA Riverina and look to select a small of group of businesses that really have the appetite to move up into the next level for their tourism business and then we'll work with them through an intensive program over a course of maybe six months to really give them those skills that they need.

Michael McCormack: RDA Riverina?

Miriam Dayhew: It's wonderful to be able to partner with Destination Riverina Murray. RDA Riverina has been able to assist a number of organisations develop grant applications.

We love the Building Better Regions Fund and it's wonderful to see funds coming into our region.

In this particular project, we're actually working with Destination Riverina Murray to develop a program and to deliver the program. Once again, wonderful money spent in the regions that will benefit our region, benefit employment in the region and certainly bring wonderful recognition to the people who do work in the hospitality and tourism industries.

Rachel Whiting: We're looking forward to working with tourism businesses to really help them to make their businesses work better and that will then encourage them to attract further people into the region and that's really what we want to do for the Riverina and it will also be helping the Murray region as well.

Journalist: So this for the collective tourism sector?

Rachel Whiting: Yes, absolutely.

Michael McCormack: Now, any other questions about this or other topics?

All good.