The Mirror News

Shire on the right track to progress priority projects

PROGRESS is powering ahead on an alternative heavy vehicle route through Leongatha.

Construction will begin shortly on an extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail from Foster to Welshpool.

Construction of overtaking lanes on the Strzelecki Highway is set to take place, with funding set aside in the 2012-13 state budget.

South Gippsland Shire mayor Warren Raabe and chief executive officer Tim Tamlin talked about these and other priority projects at a meeting last Thursday between Member for Gippsland South (and Deputy Premier) Peter Ryan.

“It was our annual presentation of our priority projects,” said Cr Raabe, who emerged buoyant from the meeting, convinced that the strategic approach the shire is taking is the right way to go.

Cr Raabe and Mr Tamlin are doing their best to meet with all the local politicians, state and federal, upper and lower houses, from Peter Ryan, Peter Hall and Matt Viney to Johan Scheffer and Russell Broadbent.

“The meetings we have had so far have been very worthwhile,” said the mayor. “All the politicians bring different points to our meetings and we have been received very well. They say they are very pleased with how we are doing business.”

“We are going in with a short but diverse and essentially achievable list of priority projects. The list is deliberately kept to under ten items. It’s been very productive and I would encourage every council to do likewise. The things we’ve achieved have been amazing!”

Cr Raabe and Mr Tamlin thanked Mr Ryan for his government’s assistance so far. Already there has been state government funding for a detailed design for the heavy vehicle alternative route, funding (federal as well as state) for the rail trail extension, and the state government has given the go-ahead for rezoning of land to make way for an ecotourism development near the gates of Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Good progress, said the mayor, has been made on the Corner Inlet Tourism Development Project. A part of this involves the extension of the rail trail, which is now funded. “Since that has been achieved, we may now turn our attention to working with Parks Victoria to improve Agnes Falls as a tourist attraction.”

Other aspects of the Corner Inlet Tourism Development Project include the restoration of the Port Welshpool Long Jetty; improvements, in association with Gippsland Ports, to the berthing facilities at Port Welshpool; and dredging the Toora Channel to improve access to the boat ramp. “That is getting closer,” said the mayor confidently.

Other priority projects identified by the shire include a children’s services hub for Korumburra, of a similar model to the new facility at Foster, but on a larger scale given the much larger population of Korumburra. “We expect the cost of the development to be $3.5 million,” said Cr Raabe. “A piece of land has been identified. There is a dire need for a centre, so I hope it will be progressing soon.”

Also on the list is a development and feasibility plan for Coal Creek at Korumburra. “This has been a great success in its first phase. We’ve seen visitor numbers increase from 11,000 to 51,000 in the last four years. But this puts extra work load on staff. We need to implement some changes, work out how to control costs and where we go from here. We need a business plan,” explained the mayor.

On the agenda for talks specifically with the local federal member, Russell Broadbent, is broadband internet access, in particular how to prepare local businesses for a faster service and how they can make the most of it.

A concern for every level of government is the state of the roads, so this was also discussed with Mr Ryan. The shire, said Cr Raabe, has been just as disappointed as the public with VicRoads’ slow response to fixing its roads and he and the CEO expressed their disappointment to Mr Ryan. “We consider it inadequate. Tim [Tamlin] has a particular interest and expertise in this area after many years in the industry. We have had high level talks with VicRoads already and between these and our talks with Mr Ryan we are hopeful changes can be brought to improve repair response times.”

On a more positive note concerning roads, Cr Raabe and Mr Tamlin thanked Mr Ryan for the extra funding in the state budget for the Koo Wee Rup Bypass.

Cr Raabe commented: “I understand there will eventually – within the next decade – be a double lane link road from the South Gippsland Highway to the Princes Highway. The designs are being completed now. The link will greatly enhance travel between South Gippsland and Melbourne.”

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