Willetton Basketball Association expansion in doubt after Federal Govt announces changes to funding model

THE Willetton Basketball Association (WBA) expansion has been thrown into question after the Federal Coalition announced it would no longer fund the National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) if re-elected.

The billion-dollar scheme will be rebranded the Building Better Regions Fund and projects in metropolitan areas, including Perth, will no longer be eligible.

Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash said “a re-elected Coalition Government will re-focus its billion-dollar National Stronger Regions Fund to be eligible only to regional, rural and remote Australia, and be broadened to include small community groups”.

Round three grants from the fund will be granted next month and applications closed some months ago.

The funding model will then cease.

Senator Nash said the new fund would ensure smaller councils in rural areas would not have to compete with major capital city councils for funding.

The WBA had pinned its hopes on round four of the funding scheme to enable a $10 million expansion and in last week’s budget, the City of Canning pledged $40,000 to help them with the NSRF application.

WBA chairman Phil Nixon remained positive and recognised the timeline for the expansion could be pushed back by about a year.

“We anticipated anything could happen during a Federal Election and probably would,” he said. “There might be funding, but by some other name.

“We were delighted that the council made the decision to support us and we understand anything said might need to be reshaped to apply to other grants.

“WBA will continue to run as normal and our enthusiasm after the council meeting is running high; it’s a team effort here.

“Speed bumps don’t bother us, brick walls do.”

Canning acting chief executive Garry Adams said the council’s pledge for $40,000 would remain on the table for the WBA but said a further resolution would be required to recommit $2.2 million to any new funding source.

Canning Deputy Mayor Lindsay Holland said he was sad and disappointed to learn of the end of NSRF funding and pledged to work towards securing other funding.

“I’m very disappointed (NSRF) has been terminated in its present form,” he said. “I can’t speak for the WBA but it will just mean looking to source other funds elsewhere where we can.”

Outspoken WBA supporter and Bannister ward councillor Ben Kunze said he had hopes for the future of the stadium through other funding sources.

“I am hopeful… the WBA can identify an alternative funding source, so that the project may proceed,” he said.

Liberal candidate for Tangney Ben Morton, who toured the stadium with high-profile Liberals, including Treasurer Scott Morrison, said there would be other Federal funding opportunities.