COMMUNITY input has been of huge assistance to the South Gippsland Transport Connections Project in the six years of its operation. The project has largely come to an end, though its coordinator, Fred Boreham, will continue working on a part-time basis until June next year on the car pooling program Gippy Ride Share and a few other ongoing programs.
South Gippsland Transport Connections has seen some successes among the many projects it investigated and trialled from 2007 to 2013, and these were celebrated at a luncheon at GippsTAFE’s training restaurant, Wildflower Café, last Wednesday.
Ned Dennis, who heads the South Gippsland Shire Council Community Strengthening team which managed the project, said the luncheon was an opportunity to thank the people who have been involved as representatives of the local or state government, transport providers, various community groups or the media.
Many people, such as Alex and Tricia Moon of Moon’s Buslines of Yanakie, have been involved from the beginning.
South Gippsland Shire Council obtained grant funding from the Victorian Government’s Department of Planning and Community Development in July 2007 for the establishment of a South Gippsland Transport Connections project. The project was fully State Government funded, with council providing administrative and in-house support for the project.
Fred Boreham was appointed in November 2007 and the first partnership management group was formed in 2008. These representatives of various relevant bodies as well as members of the community came up with a range of ideas for transport improvements to service the greater South Gippsland community as a whole.
“We have had good will from all sides. The important thing is that the ideas have all been endorsed by local communities,” said Mr Dennis.
One of the greatest successes has been a revised Public Transport Services in South Gippsland booklet. This involved considerable revision and update of an original booklet. Initially 1000 copies were printed and circulated free of charge at newsagents and community service provider outlets across the shire. These were very well received by the community and were out of stock within the first four weeks of release. There have been several reprints since and the booklet will be retained as a council service.
Also in 2008 the Project successfully applied for a State Government grant for provision of new urban style (glass) bus shelters at Korumburra, Leongatha, Meeniyan and Fish Creek.
The Project also produced ‘Ezy to Read’ bus service timetables to assist people having difficulty reading the small print and understanding the V/line 24-hour clock on the service schedules provided.
Council hopes to continue to run community road Show forums in the style the Project initiated, which involved public consultation/information exchange and speakers from Veterans Affairs, SGSC Community Transport and the SGTC Coordinator.
Council will also continue to produce – on a triennial basis – a transport assets map. This required considerable research and consultation with the service providers and transport contractors. The document was not for public distribution, but has proved very useful to groups such as Police, Council, schools and community services organisations as a resource directory/document for transport service awareness and emergency/maintenance management.
The Project provided invaluable public advocacy in the South Gippsland Bus and Coach Services Review conducted by the Department of Transport. It promoted community involvement and response to the consultation process for the improvement to the public transport services along the South Gippsland, Strzelecki and Bass highways. The end result has been greater state funding and a vastly improved coach service.
Ned Dennis thanked Katherine Cousins, who took over as Interim Coordinator from Fred Boreham for 12 months in 2009 and was involved in a range of programs, including development of a discussion paper, public information sessions and later a DVD on the use of mobility scooters in South Gippsland.
South Gippsland Transport Connections was a leading partner in the Medical Companions project, which provided volunteer companions to assist and accompany regional and rural public transport users to get from city train/bus terminals to health care appointments within the Melbourne CBD. This proved so successful Travellers Aid Australia will continue with it for another 12 months at least.
Various bus services have been trialled at the suggestion of community members. Several, including one to Tidal River and other local beaches and another between Venus Bay and Leongatha, have been discontinued due to lack of patronage, but a weekly service for people from Poowong wishing to shop in Drouin or Warragul has been retained, largely thanks to the energy of Hannah Alquier from the Poowong Community Consultative Committee.
Finally, a word about the future. Promotion of Gippy Ride Share has only been active since March but already 350 people are registered. This public car pool/rideshare program is open to everyone in Gippsland. For further information go to the Gippy Ride Share website at www.gippyrideshare.com.au.