“THIS is a really positive news story for the Corner Inlet area,” said Cr Kieran Kennedy, as South Gippsland Shire Council gave wholehearted support to the Corner Inlet Tourism Development Project, pledging funding of $1.5 million to $2.1 million as leverage for securing grant allocations.
At their meeting last Wednesday, the shire councillors discussed the project as an item of urgent business in order to meet state and federal government grant opportunity deadlines. They voted unanimously to allocate significant funds to the project and pursue opportunities for partnership funding.
The project is made up of four connected yet distinct developments identified by the shire as Priority Projects. They include:
- The Great Southern Rail Trail extension from Foster to Welshpool;
- The restoration of the Port Welshpool Long Jetty;
- A feasibility study including detailed design of a marina at Port Welshpool;
- The dredging of the Toora Channel for boating and recreational activities.
“This is very exciting. It will be a fantastic outcome even if we get just three out of the four developments up,” said Cr Kennedy.
He and fellow Coastal Promontory Ward councillor Mohya Davies spoke particularly enthusiastically about the project. Cr Jeanette Harding was absent on interstate business from the meeting, but Cr Bob Newton relayed her strong support.
Cr Kennedy said that while a growing number of visitors were being attracted to the Promontory coast there was a crying need for infrastructure.
“We need projects that bring in the visitors, especially for water sports, a marina for instance. This can only go to boost the economies of the surrounding area – and the whole shire. I’d like to thank the shire officers responsible for bringing this project up,” he said.
Cr Davies hailed the venture as “a bold tourism project that could shape the future of Corner Inlet and the whole of South Gippsland”.
“These are all fabulous developments in themselves, but attracting funding for any one project could be difficult. Packaging them together is a very creative way to move them up the chain of priority,” she said.
Cr Davies mourned the loss from the eastern (Corner Inlet) end of the shire, in recent years, of several industries that had been major employers, such as the milk factory at Toora and the Prom Meats abattoir at Foster. She said that there was too much reliance on Wilsons Promontory National Park. The closure of the Prom for long periods in recent years due to fires and floods showed how unwise this was.
“If it is successful, this project would future-proof the district and stop our reliance on the Prom,” said Cr Davies. “We have the natural assets, but we need to develop the infrastructure.” She reminded her fellow councillors of the 1990s when the Seacat plied the waters of Bass Strait between Georgetown and Port Welshpool. The whole of South Gippsland, she said, benefited from the flow-on effect of ferry passengers travelling to and from Port Welshpool.
Even councillors from wards outside the Corner Inlet area expressed enthusiasm for the project.
Cr David Lewis said he was very pleased to support for the project, because he believed infrastructure, along with core services, was something the ratepayers of the shire considered critical.
“I feel it’s something the community will want and it is worth setting money aside for,” he said.
As to how to fund the project, Cr Lewis had this to say: “I suggest we look at staff numbers and how they’ve increased in recent years. There are too many managers. There are surely savings to be made.”
Cr Jim Fawcett said he was also keen to know how the shire intended raising funds for the project.
The chief executive officer, Tim Tamlin, referred him to the paragraph in the report prepared by shire officers which states: “…it is important that the strategic integrity of the Long Term Financial Plan is not compromised. This will necessitate reviewing and deferring lesser priority discretionary projects that are currently funded in the Plan. This will be considered during the current Capital Works Program review process and the forthcoming budget preparation process.”
The CEO added that it should be remembered that Council’s funding commitment of $1.5 million to $2.1 million would be spread over more than one financial year.
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