ROADS, educational facilities and emergency services in South Gippsland are beneficiaries in the State Budget handed down by the Treasurer, Kim Wells, on Tuesday of last week.
The Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan said funding is being made available for a range of initiatives of benefit to the electorate, including the Leongatha Secondary College precinct, the Koo Wee Rup bypass, and fire stations at Walkerville, Poowong, Binginwarri and Carrajung.
“The $10 million investment [for Leongatha Secondary College] will enable completion of stage 2 of a state-of-the-art, 21st century learning environment for more than 500 students in Years 7-12 in the Leongatha school community,” Mr Ryan said.
Motorists and transport operators will benefit from the injection of $50 million for a bypass around Koo Wee Rup and $5.7 million for overtaking lanes on the Hyland Highway and Strzelecki Highway.
“When construction finished on the Pakenham bypass, the community of Koo Wee Rup was swamped by traffic using their town as a link between the Princes Highway and South Gippsland Highway,” Mr Ryan said. “The added traffic has caused major frustration to not only those who live and work in the town but the many South Gippsland transport operators and the motorists who use the road on a daily or weekly basis. The $50 million commitment from the Coalition Government towards construction of the bypass will ease the congestion in Koo Wee Rup, allowing the town to again function as it should, as well as providing faster travel times for motorists travelling between South Gippsland and Melbourne.”
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government would build or upgrade four Gippsland South CFA fire stations, including those at Walkerville, Binginwarri, Carrajung and Poowong, as part of a $62.7 million state-wide commitment to upgrade CFA stations and equipment. New vehicles will also be provided to brigades in Gippsland as part of the package of 101 firefighting vehicles to be purchased during the year.
Mr Ryan said that both South Gippsland and Wellington shires would benefit from the Coalition Government’s commitment of $160 million over four years for local roads and bridges.
“Each council will have an extra $1 million per year in each of the next four years to help develop and maintain this vital infrastructure,” Mr Ryan said.
“The councils will also share in the benefits of the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund with $100 million of that money dedicated to Local Government projects throughout country Victoria over the next four years.”
The Coalition has also committed $1 million for 10 additional Mobile Intensive Care Ambulances (MICA), three of which will be situated in Gippsland at Sale, Wonthaggi and Bairnsdale.
BUDGET DELIVERS FOR RURAL VICTORIA
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), the CFA and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) all had praise for the budget.
“This is a budget which will deliver for farmers and rural Victoria,” said VFF President Andrew Broad. “The VFF especially welcomes commitments to assist Local Government to upgrade and maintain critical regional infrastructure and financial encouragement for the entry of young farmers to the industry.”
Mr Broad was referring to the government’s commitment to fund the exemption from stamp duty of farmers aged under 35 on the first $300,000 of agricultural land purchased. He said it was an important initiative which would encourage young people to get involved in agriculture.
Meanwhile, the CFA has welcomed the government’s announcement of funding for stations and equipment for the coming year. The new funding will see CFA build or upgrade 60 stations and purchase 101 new firefighting vehicles and appliances over the next 12 months. The funding for vehicles will be spent on 74 light/medium tankers, 20 heavy tankers and seven specialist appliances which will be stationed and used across the state.
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) president Bill McArthur said he was pleased that rural and regional councils would get access to the $100 million Local Government Infrastructure and the $100 million Putting Locals First programs over the next four years as part of the first $500 million Regional Growth Fund commitment.
“We’re also pleased to see 40 rural councils will receive the first $40 million this year as part of the $160 million Country Roads and Bridges Fund. Local roads comprise 85 per cent of the state’s entire road network and this boost will improve councils’ maintenance and renewal programs, which have traditionally only received Commonwealth funding support.
“The MAV welcomes the $20 million Green Lights Plan, commencing this year to assist councils replace the state’s 330,000 local road street lights with energy efficient lighting technologies,” he added. “This responds to a specific local government election request and with some councils ready to proceed with their bulk changeovers, the funding is a great green step forward.”
RURAL HEALTH WIN
The Rural Doctors Association of Victoria (RDAV) has welcomed the budget announcement of the establishment of a dedicated training program for rural generalist practitioners in the state. The Victorian Minister for Health, David Davis, has confirmed that $2.4 million over four years will be provided to underpin the program, commencing from the 2011-12 financial year.
“This is an incredibly important initiative for the survival of Victoria’s rural hospitals and the delivery of health services to rural Victorians” said RDAV President, Dr Mike Moynihan.
“RDAV has watched the success over a number of years of a rural generalist training pathway in Queensland, and advocated strongly for a dedicated rural generalist training program in Victoria that is modelled on the training approach already implemented up there…it is great to see that this is now coming to fruition in our own state.
“As it will be a tight squeeze to start producing Rural Generalist Practitioners from this year’s medical graduates and have them mentored into fully active practice by Victoria’s remaining older and retiring practitioners, there is much work required now to get the program up and running as quickly as possible. While the proposed budget is possibly about 60 per cent of our estimated requirements, when coupled with the $1.6 million per year that is already allocated for procedural training places it is certainly a good start. RDAV looks forward to working with the Victorian Government to implement this exciting initiative.”