COVID-19 hit regions to get a $100m boost with regional grants fund

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is committing an extra $100 million to the controversial Building Better Regions Fund as part of an infrastructure boost for COVID-19 hit regions.

The money adds to $200 million already flagged for the fund's round five which will be detailed on Friday by Mr Joyce. There are 298 projects in the now $300 million round with half ($125 million) earmarked for 81 soon to be delivered tourism-specific infrastructure upgrades.

The new projects include art galleries, museums, sporting precincts, aquatic centres, health facilities, community halls and upgrades to regional water supplies.

The Deputy Prime Minister says he is offering a helping hand to regional communities as borders reopen and Australians travel again.

"Funding the infrastructure and services that regional and remote communities need for the future will help them rebound strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Joyce said.

"Investing in tourism will protect existing jobs and create new ones, while positioning regional towns and economies to capitalise on Australia's post-COVID recovery as borders reopen and people start travelling again.

"Our infrastructure and community investments will ensure our regions remain great places to live and visit, while enabling them to continue supporting important regional industries which create jobs."

The awarding of funding under the Building Better Regions Fund is the subject of a listed national audit office review which is set down be released mid next year.

Earlier this year, documents released under Freedom of Information laws showed that a panel of ministers had intervened and rejected departmental advice in around a third of the decisions.

Labor described the fund as "rorting on an industrial scale," but the then-deputy prime minister Michael McCormack defended the fund as an "open, competitive and merit-based program."

To date, the Morrison government says it has invested $1.38 billion across five rounds of the program and funded nearly 1300 projects.

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This story COVID-hit regions to get $100m boost first appeared on The Canberra Times.