Almost areas of country Victoria outside the major centres of Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley are being short-changed by this Labor State Government.
That is the clear message coming out of a report tabled in Parliament last week by the Independent Auditor General’s office.
It shows almost all country municipalities, including East Gippsland and Wellington, received a significantly larger slice of funds under the Liberal Nationals, and are missing out under Labor.
The Investing in Regional Victoria report is a scathing assessment of the Andrews Government’s failure to properly administer regional funding.
It found the smaller councils, often those with higher socio economic disadvantage and unemployment rates and lower job growth, received higher levels of funding under the Coalition and less under Labor
Thirty per cent of the entire fund went to Geelong and Ballarat, which had massive increases, while Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley also had growth - but almost all rural councils had decreases.
It said a large amount of regional funding went to areas “which may be more able to independently deliver growth through increasing populations, transport connections and business opportunities. In particular …. Ballarat and Geelong.”
The Auditor General found the Coalition “distributed more evenly”.
It found Labor has failed to address problems, including with slow application lead times, inaccurate data and by not adequately accounting for administration costs.
Daniel Andrews says he governs for all Victoria, but this is more proof that he does not, he ignores the regions.
It is disappointing that while we have had fires, floods, job losses at Heyfield and now drought, he has not even bothered to visit this area once in five years and nor has the Deputy Premier.
Our communities are already seeing the benefits of projects funded by the former Liberal Nationals government across all our major towns in East Gippsland.
Our city centric Premier isn’t willing to make the same strong investment in the future of true country communities, instead we've had to drag him kicking and screaming for every cent. It shouldn’t be this hard.
The existing regional development fund will expire on June 30 and it is critical further funds are allocated in the upcoming State Budget and distributed more evenly.
The report also confirms what’s long been suspected – the incoming Andrews Government failed to properly cost its own election commitments before the 2014 State Election, meaning funds fell $226 million short. The following table of many regional councils tells a clear story.