Wattle Range postpones RDA cut

By Raquel Mustillo

WATTLE Range Council will postpone a decision to withdraw almost $20,000 in funding to the Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast (RDALC) until after representatives address elected members.

At this week’s council meeting, mayor Des Noll moved a motion recommending council cut its funding to the association – which aims to support and broker regional development opportunities – citing a lack of value for money.

Mr Noll told the chamber there had been continued discussion by Limestone Coast mayors and chief executives about the collective funding to the RDALC.

He said the proportional funding – which totalled $93,000 in 2021/22 – was used for small business assistance and development, but said it was difficult to measure the effectiveness and whether any tangible outcomes are being achieved.

“At over $250 per referral, the value proposition is questionable,” Mr Noll said.

“Wattle Range Council’s proportion of funding being paid to the RDALC for customer service to delivery is not value for money.

“I’m not seeing outcomes that would be expected for the outgoing investment that we are committed to.”

Council chief executive Ben Gower said he had met with representatives from the RDALC prior to the meeting and suggested members invite the association to present a deputation ahead of any prospective funding cuts.

He told the chamber he believed the association had a key role in economic development in the Limestone Coast, but the engagement, funding model and service provision needed to be reviewed.

“This was the first meeting I’ve had with the RDALC of this nature in four years,” Mr Gower said.

“Most of their engagement in the last five years has been through the Limestone Coast Local Government Association board and not with individual councils.

“There has been a stand-off relationship for quite some time.”

Councillor Peter Dunnicliff indicated he would support Mr Noll’s motion and highlighted whether council was getting value for money.

“I find this to be a bit like I have found the Limestone Coast Local Government Association for the last 15 years in which we haven’t seen a result, we’ve only seen a template of what they try to do,” he said.

“I’ll support the motion which withdraws funding as of 2022/23… if it comes back that it has been useful and profitable for members, then we can revisit it.”

Cr Dean Burrow moved an amendment that council consider withdrawing its funding following the RDALC addressing Wattle Range Council at a future meeting.

“I don’t like having it on the books that the mayor withdrew the funding,” he said.

“Maybe they need the funding.”

Cr Dunnicliff said the amendment was unnecessary, saying council should not ratepayer funds based on a deputation.

Elected members ultimately voted to adjourn debate on the motion until after the RDALC has presented to council.

Regional Development Association Limestone Coast chief executive David Wheaton said he respected council’s right to examine its funding streams.

“Wattle Range Council have been a respected and long-time funding partner of ours,” he said.

“Their support allows us to provide support to the small business community, but we respect their right to examine their expenditure and in their view make sure they’re getting the best value for money that they can.”