Redevelopment of the Federal Hotel could get a lifeline from a funding stream the NSW Government is trying to take away from Deniliquin.
When Ennor Engineering decided not to proceed with a development for which it had received $750,000, the state government indicated the money could be taken from Edward River Council.
This is despite the funding being specifically allocated to offset some of the job losses in the ERC area from implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
However, this week discussions were held between council and Omecca Pty Ltd managing director Gary Patterson, who told the Pastoral Times the funding could be used to establish his ‘‘experience driven hotel’’ proposal.
This includes a fixed seating cinema, potentially with twin screens, a ‘posh’ hotel/hostel accommodation hybrid, family friendly restaurant and rejuvenated bar and potentially a craft brewery with a local theme.
Mayor Norm Brennan confirmed council had at least two projects under consideration, but was not willing to name them.
‘‘We think we have at least two projects that can meet the original deadline set by the government,’’ he said.
The $3 million funding under the Murray-Darling Basin Diversification Program came after Deniliquin was virtually ignored in the first round of funding, with a miserly $150,000 granted despite significant job losses through implementation of the Basin Plan.
It prompted a Pastoral Times campaign which led to Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and then Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli announcing the $3 million.
The Pastoral Times believes Edward River Council was furious when advised that $750,000 may be taken away when the Ennor Engineering project could not proceed.
Meanwhile, Member for Murray Austin Evans, who has been asked to intervene and guarantee the funding, has suggested the money could be ‘borrowed’ by the NSW Government and repaid later.
He said it was one of the options to ensure the council retains the remaining $750,000.
The threats to take if from Edward River Council have been made by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, which says it is not convinced the money can be spent on an eligible project by the time the program expires at the end of May this year.
It has suggested the money be diverted, possibly to pay for a feasibility study on the proposed inland rail freight project between Melbourne and Brisbane. This project is not expected to benefit the Deniliquin region.
Mr Evans said he is working hard to ensure Edward River Council gets the development investment it was promised, and which is designed to grow job opportunities to counteract the negative impacts of the Basin Plan.
‘‘A representative from the Department of Premier and Cabinet will be in Deniliquin on February 9 so we can sit down with council and work our way through this situation,’’ Mr Evans said.
‘‘We will see what projects are available to use this funding in the allotted timeframe.
‘‘But if we can’t find a project which can be completed in that time and fits with the conditions of the funding, we need to look at using the money elsewhere and back-fill it with state money (to the council).
‘‘We know that part of the trouble we have is finding something that can fit in with the timeframe.’’
Cr Brennan said council had collated a list of projects it was confident could meet the criteria and the timeline to take to next week’s meeting.
He said failing that, Mr Evans’ proposal to repay the funding to council would be a welcome option.
‘‘There are some creative suggestions being made, but I don’t care which box the money is coming from as long as it comes back to us,’’ Cr Brennan said.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet said in order to reallocate program funding, new projects must be agreed to by the NSW and Commonwealth governments.