No applicants to regional move program

A $10.9 MILLION program designed to encourage people to move to regional areas did not receive a single application in the 12 months before it was axed in the Federal Budget, Senate estimates has revealed.

The Federal Government spruiked the benefits of its Promoting Regional Living Program in the wake of last year's budget.

In fact, as of Tuesday, the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport was still promoting the program on its website.

But the program was scrapped in the 2012-13 budget, providing "savings of $10.9 million over four years from 2011-12", the budget papers read.

Under intense questioning from Nationals Senator Fiona Nash in estimates, the deputy secretary of the department, Dan O'Brien, admitted the program was not advertised, nor guidelines released.

"There were no guidelines prepared; there was no advertising of the program. Nothing was released publicly in terms of that particular program and no requests for funds came in, obviously," Mr O'Brien said.

Mr O'Brien later corrected the record, saying "guidelines were prepared, but they were never agreed to and never released".

Department secretary Glenys Beauchamp said the "government decided not to pursue the program and decided to redirect funds to other areas".

Asked by Senator Nash which projects the money had been redirected to, Ms Beauchamp said "it was used as a redirection to contribute towards a range of other announcements in the budget that has just gone".

"Particularly in the regional development area," she added.

Ms Beauchamp told senators the program was considered "in the mix of priorities" when the budget process began in September.

"Could I just say that these are decisions of government. It has been a tough budget process, as the Treasurer and others have outlined, and decisions need to be made along the way," Ms Beauchamp said.

"It was part of the budget deliberations and there are a number of new regional development initiatives that have been announced in this budget, and it was a contribution to those."

Under the Promoting Regional Living Program groups of councils would have been able to apply for grants of up to $1 million to sell regional living.

It was based on the Evocities program, which comprises seven New South Wales regional cities. The main objective of the Evocities campaign, which receives significant federal and state funding, is to encourage capital city residents to make the move to one of the member cities.

The Federal Government committed more than $40 million in the 2012-13 Budget to new initiatives within the Regional Australia department.

That included an additional $1.6 million for the National Disaster Recovery Task Force and $39.2 million for the Active After-School Communities Program.

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