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State Government Fails to Connect with Western Victoria

2 May 2018

Southern Grampians Shire Council Mayor Mary-Ann Brown has expressed her dissatisfaction with yesterday’s State Budget, which included little to no investment for the region.

Key priorities of digital innovation, improved public transport and the return of passenger rail have been ignored by the Andrews State Labor Government.

Mayor Brown said the Council felt frustrated and disappointed on behalf of the community with a regional population of 110,000 basically being disregarded.

“Council has a solid digital strategy which has seen us widely acknowledged as a local government leader in digital innovation. We have commenced the implementation of key projects with $150,000 of our own funds matched by a $150,000 contribution from the Federal Government, so to have received nothing from the State Government is extremely disappointing,” said Cr Brown.

“Another key priority for Western Victoria is improved public transport, in particular the return of passenger rail to Hamilton and Horsham. Southern Grampians Shire Council, partnering with eight surrounding Councils, have been pushing a solid case to the State Government since April 2017 demonstrating the return of passenger rail services is not only viable, but vital to the future prosperity of the region.

“In the last 12 months, on three occasions, the Mayors and CEO’s of the eight Councils met with Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan about returning rail to Western Victoria and were told the request for a business case would be considered. The Minister has been quoted as saying that ‘All passengers deserve reliable and punctual services - no matter where they live’ and that the Andrew’s Government Regional Rail Revival (which does not include funding for Western Victoria) ‘shows we are getting on with giving regional Victorians the transport services they deserve’.

“Well we say to Minister Allan, what about what we deserve? There is no equity with the Regional Rail Revival funding across Victoria - the people of Western Victoria have been ignored. In spite of everything Minister Allan says, this budget still leaves Western Victorians with the worst passenger services in the State. This lack of support for our region is extremely disappointing,” Cr Brown urged.

“Passenger rail is an obvious tool for decentralisation and the funding of a business case for the return of passenger rail to Hamilton and Horsham is minuscule compared to the many millions of dollars needed to fix the traffic jam called Melbourne.

“While the budget saw a significant amount of money allocated to rural and regional roads, with the setting up of Regional Roads Victoria to oversee over a $300 million investment into regional roads, Western Victoria seems to stop outside of Ballarat for the State Government.

“Another major priority for Council is the upgrading of Hamilton’s ‘front door’ in Cox Street. Council has been working collaboratively with Vic Roads for five years to unlock the development potential of this State-owned eyesore and we’re frustrated that the State Government now seems to be procrastinating on the development of this important arterial road,” Cr Brown said.

Mayor Brown also expressed her disappointment that under Education, the local community has again been overlooked, with no funding allocated for the Baimbridge College masterplan redevelopment.

“The lack of commitment from the State Government to education, notably the long overdue upgrade of our State High School, Baimbridge College, is another indication that Western Victoria has been completely overlooked in this budget and only serves to further disadvantage youth in our region.

“The Southern Grampians region has taken a few big hits over the past two years with the 2016 significant flood event, the closure of major employer and economic generator Iluka Mineral Sands Processing Plant and the recent Storm and Fire event of March 2018. I’m frustrated for our community that we have been overlooked by the State Government.

“We see in this budget, commitments to roads, digital innovation and improved public transport but our region has been excluded. We will be seeking meetings with key State Government Ministers during the May sitting Week of State Parliament to advocate for our region and ensure these programs include support to Southern Grampians Shire in the adopted State budget,” concluded Cr Brown.

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