Govt washes hands over NORTEC sell-off

NORTEC’s logo boasts it’s in the business of ‘creating opportunities’ and ‘inspiring futures’.

Hans Lovejoy

It appears NORTEC’s corporate behaviour will not be held to account by either state or federal government ministers who oversee the funding of employment and training providers in NSW. 

The federal minister responsible for business-incubator programs has absolved himself from any responsibility regarding the employment service provider’s decision to sell off incubator sites and axe its programs.

As previously reported in December last year, employment and training provider NORTEC sold its incubator sites in Goonellabah and Byron Bay and severed leases with several small businesses.

A lease for a Mullumbimby incubator site was also terminated, all with six weeks’ notice.

Minister for Small and Family Business Craig Laundy replied to concerns raised by Labor MP Justine Elliot in a letter on May 29. Laundy advised Elliot that the small- business incubator initiative concluded in 2008.

He wrote, ‘I understand that the Australian government contributed funds, through the initiative, along with a range of other financial contributors, to the establishment of the above- mentioned NORTEC incubator sites. In the case of the Goonellabah site, NORTEC owns the land the incubator was built on, while the local council owns the Mullumbimby incubator site.

The Byron Bay incubator was developed by another organisation (which received government funding) and ownership was later transferred to NORTEC.

‘NORTEC currently delivers other government programs. However, the funding to deliver these programs was awarded through separate grant processes and the programs are not related to the incubator funding.

‘The government had no further involvement with the incubator projects, including the NORTEC sites, after the facilities were constructed and all contractual requirements were met. The operation of the incubator sites, and any subsequent transfer or disposal of the sites, is the responsibility of the site owners…’

A spokesperson for NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s office confirmed that NORTEC have a contract with the NSW government as a Business Connect adviser.

The spokesperson said, ‘Under the NSW government contract with NORTEC, there is no funding provided or requirement for NORTEC to run this Small Business Incubator program. Funding for the business incubator programs is from the federal governments.’

‘The NSW government contract with NORTEC is to fund small business advisory services (one to one and events) in the New England and northwest and North Coast regions.’

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