There is much to be positive about in relation to the future of East Gippsland.
Unlike many other rural areas, our population, employment numbers and business sectors all continue to grow.
Figures from earlier this year show we have 8,545 registered businesses in the East Gippsland Shire, an increase of just on 100 from July 2014 and a figure than continues to grow.
However, perhaps one of the best indicators of how we are developing as a region came with the redistribution of State Government electoral boundaries last year.
These electorate boundaries are based on population and while almost all rural boundaries expanded (and one rural electorate abolished to allow this to happen) to achieve the population requirement – East Gippsland remained unchanged.
This means our population growth is very similar to state population growth, not something other rural areas can boast.
Over the last term in government we saw massive investment into East Gippsland in all sectors that will assist not only development of our area, but provides important infrastructure for our communities.
This investment has included, but is not limited to, $15m for two new schools (Toorloo Arm PS and Bairnsdale SC), several kindergarten rebuilds at well over $1m, $50m into major road upgrades, over $20m for natural gas reticulation that is going ahead in Orbost and Lakes Entrance, over $1m in improvements at Bairnsdale and Orbost hospitals, $10m into improved boating facilities, major town centre redevelopments in Paynesville and Bairnsdale, $1m for disability accommodation, $1m for the all abilities playground, $1.25m for the new library, multi-million airport upgrades at Marlo and Bairnsdale and several million to local businesses to expand and grow jobs.
There are many more projects in East Gippsland and that list does not include the western end of the electorate. We have been charging along in relation to important infrastructure works. Despite this there always remains more to do and that is why East Gippsland – and all of rural Victoria for that matter – requires ongoing investment from the current State Government.
The concern facing all rural electorates is the data in the attached photograph straight from this year’s State Budget papers that shows large cuts to the regional development, tourism, agriculture and roads budgets – all of which will affect rural Victoria.
I have no doubt we will continue to grow and prosper, but we need to make sure there remains a strong level of investment from the State.
All our regional development bodies, business industry groups and media have a role to play in ensuring capital investment continues to meet the needs of a rural area that is one of the few that continues to grow and prosper.
September 4, 2015