MORETON Bay islands will now be eligible for regional funding grants after an intense lobbying campaign by mayor Karen Williams.
The change in status will see the islands able to apply for a share in $481 million in federal government regional funding.
Cr Williams said the decision to include Redland City islands in the second round of the Building Better Regions Fund followed meetings with then Minister Fiona Nash and ongoing lobbying for the government to consider the Redlands a regional city.
“This decision is great news for our islands and a step in the right direction with regards to all levels of government recognising that while the Redlands is located in south-east Queensland, we have many of the same challenges as regional communities,” Cr Williams said.
She said she argued that isolation was an issue for the islands which in some cases had an unemployment rate of 25 per cent.
Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association chairman Greg Hartay-Szabo said it was a commendable effort.
“But I think the best way she could help with funding is lobbying for connecting all these islands – not just Straddie – from Brisbane,” he said.
“The future of this region and the best chance for funding is to promote these islands in a comprehensive and integrated tourist hub concept where North Stradbroke Island is regularly accessible from the Southern Moreton Bay Islands for an affordable fare.
“Without this, Straddie may truly get stranded.”
Cr Williams said she had originally asked for the entire city to be included and would continue to advocate for this.
“My argument has always been that the decision on whether or not to classify us as a region for funding allocations should not depend on who our neighbours are, it should depend on our city’s own unique characteristics, including one of the largest populations living on unbridged islands in the country, higher than average number of retirees and high unemployment in some parts of the city,” she said.
Cr Williams said council staff were looking at eligible island projects for the next funding round.
“This is the thin end of the wedge in terms of us accessing regional funding and I want to make sure we make the most of it,” she said.
“Not only will we put our best foot forward to access funding in the next round, I will also be writing to the government to make a case for us accessing other regional funding pools.
“This includes returning us to our previous status under the Regional Development Area program, a program we were previously considered a region under before being reclassified as part of metropolitan Brisbane.”