The Mirror News

Meeniyan residents to get rolling

PLANS are underway to overhaul Meeniyan’s recreation reserve and build a skate park. Grant applications are also being submitted to restore the Meeniyan Hall to its former art deco glory.

Both initiatives have come about as part of the Lower Tarwin Valley project, which recognises that strong and vibrant communities are essential to attract and retain people in Victoria’s dairy industry.

The project – supported by the Gardiner Foundation’s Strengthening Small Dairy Communities program, the South Gippsland Shire Council and GippsDairy – is helping the residents of the Lower Tarwin Valley plan the future of their towns and bring their vision to life.

Concept plans to seal the road around Meeniyan’s recreation reserve and to build a skate park and rail trail links are now with consultants for costing. Once the figures are in hand, funding applications to cover the project – expected to be upwards of $100,000 – will get underway.

The Gardiner Foundation provided $4000 to develop the concept plan for the recreation reserve upgrade, and has promised another $6000 if the community can get the project up and running. Funding applications have also been submitted to overhaul the Meeniyan Hall.

Stony Creek dairy farmer Fay Sinclair said providing Meeniyan with first class facilities was essential to attracting dairy workers, particularly given the high wages being offered at the desalination plant at Wonthaggi.

“If there’s somewhere nice for people and families to come, that really makes a difference,” she said.

Without dairy workers, she added, the dairy industry in the region would shrink further. “Without dairying we haven’t got a district.”

Raising community awareness of the economic importance of dairying to the district is an important element of the Lower Tarwin Valley project, according to Gardiner Foundation Community and People Development program manager Kate Randall.

“The project has been bringing dairy and community issues to the table for discussion at a district-wide level through a District Advisory Network,” Ms Randall said. “We’ve also been developing a prospectus – to be published in April – that showcases the local dairy industry and opportunities for investment.”

She said building the capacity of Victoria’s small dairy towns was essential to ensuring the future of dairying in their regions.

“Our dairy industry relies on small towns to provide employees and services. Right now almost two thirds of Victoria’s dairy workers live or work in communities with less than 5000 people and many of those communities are facing serious challenges.”

She said ultimately the project was giving Lower Tarwin residents the tools they needed to make real improvements to their towns.

“As well as helping the community apply for grants, learn how to manage projects

and network, we’re also making sure they have access to training in skills that are crucial to fundraising,” Ms Randall said. “Food handling, responsible serving of alcohol and first aid courses are all being provided.”

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