Council to reject 56% of region’s green group applications
More than half of the proposed environmental grant applications lodged with Gympie Regional Council are expected to be refused after staff ruled them ineligible under the council's funding rules.
Only one of the proposed nine applications lodged has been labelled "valid" by council staff in a report to be tabled at today's (Wednesday's) council meeting in a decision likely to stoke the fires of controversy around the Environmental Levy funding.
The use of the funds (drawn from the Environmental Levy collected by the council) has been in the spotlight since January when green groups accused the council of "unprecedented" delays in awarding this year's funding.
In response, council CEO Shane Gray said the funding needed to go before councillors, a position reiterated in the staff report which said decisions in past years appeared to have been made without rigorously applying the council's own funding rules.
"It has been clear through this exercise that the current policies have not been followed specifically over the last few years," the report said.
Under these rules applications which include activities and events run for commercial purposes, the purchase of capital infrastructure including buildings and vehicles, annual maintenance of existing assets and using more than 40 per cent of the grant money to pay wages and administration are ineligible.
It was this latter rule which council staff said would sink several of this year's applications.
The report said "a number" of the applications met one or more of the accepted criteria but included high levels of labour and administration "and these projects would not be considered grants but project works" managed through an open tender process.
Councillors are being asked to outright reject five of the nine applications, and partially accept three others.
Koala Action Group's proposal for "community education and tree planting" is listed as the only application fully eligible under the policy's rules, the report said.
Applications by groups including ANARRA, Gympie and District Landcare and the Dagun Community Group have been ruled invalid.
In total it is recommended only $81,000 of the $193,000 available be awarded in this round of funding; the remainder is proposed to be redistributed in a second round of grants once new rules and guidelines are established.
A second grant type, a $30,000 Wildlife Carers Grant, was instigated in 2018 "following direction from the then Mayor and Director of Planning and Development".
The report said this grant program was not approved by the council.