No promises were made by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack when he was in Deniliquin on Friday, but government support for a local retirement living project was not ruled out.
A request for up to $15 million in funding for the long-awaited Deniliquin project was among the seven advocacy strategy items tabled with Mr McCormack — who was Acting Prime Minister during the visit — by Edward River Council.
Mayor Norm Brennan said seeking government funding for the project — either in full or in staged developments — was now a priority after the withdrawal of preferred developer South Cross Care in April.
Cr Brennan said as Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Infrastructure, it was hoped Mr McCormack would have some influence in getting the project rolling, along with others in the strategy.
‘‘We can always look at these things; the fact is that aged care services come under the Aged Care Minister,’’ Mr McCormack said.
‘‘Yes we do have a role and responsibility to obviously build infrastructure that is going to help regional communities. And I know, coming from a regional community myself as Member for the Riverina, making sure people have retirement living in and around where they have lived all or most of their lives is important.
‘‘The last thing we want to do is ... to be forced to be hundreds of kilometres from family and friends.
‘‘I didn’t come here to just say ‘yes, we’ll do everything you ask for’, because that’s just not how it’s done. There has to be business cases, you have to put applications in and there has to be the right approvals.
‘‘But we’re always ready and willing, and able to listen to these requests and take them on board, take them on merit and see what we can do.’’
Mr McCormack also specifically flagged investment in education and health, as outlined in council’s advocacy document, as other priorities for the local district.
Council has requested $3 million to upgrade Deniliquin High School’s hospitality, industrial arts and science capabilities.
It also seeks an immediate $500,000 for planning and assessment of the existing hospital site, and then upwards of $40 million for a significant redevelopment or completely new hospital depending on the assessment outcomes.
Cr Brennan said while no guarantees were made on any of the items, he is confident Mr McCormack has a greater grasp on the aims of the advocacy document.
‘‘Michael is now aware of not only the concerns in the Edward River region, but wider regional concerns even though some of them might be state matters,’’ he said.
‘‘I am not sure what actions we may get on our advocacy strategy items, but I think we will see some definite action in the regional sphere. Even if we can get five of the ‘one percenters’ achieved we will be five per cent better off.
‘‘It was indicated that we have time — that we have three years to get things right — and there is a genuine belief we can.
‘‘What we do know now is that the Edward River region has been a focus for the top of the state (with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visiting in late April) and now the top of the Federal Government, as Michael was Acting Prime Minister when in Deniliquin.’’