Member of Lions Club – State Parliament
There is a lovely little boardwalk along the Yarra River near Federation Square. If it burnt down, how long do you think it would take to repair? I would think maybe a couple of days, possibly a week at most.
However, here in East Gippsland, we have public infrastructure burnt over five months ago, still without a sod turned.
This tourism related infrastructure is important to our local economic recovery. It should’ve, at the very least, been repaired to align with when the Coronavirus restrictions were lifted last week.
I will cite just one example that could be duplicated across the entire region - Cape Conran.
Here we still have the emergency services tapes up across the East Cape boardwalk and the steps to the beach at Salmon Rocks, both important tourist attractions.
However, perhaps the biggest example of inaction is that one panel (about a metre by a metre) burnt out on the disability access ramp to the beach at Conran.
It would take no more than half an hour to screw down the new panel and surely Parks Victoria has these panels sitting in reserve for such damage – but it has not been touched five months later.
Many will remember back to January when Premier Daniel Andrews stood in front of the microphone on several occasions at press conferences and said things like “we will stand with the people of East Gippsland in their recovery” and “we will support these communities in every way we can to recover” etc.
Like many, I was heartened to hear this and hence in February I was pushing to have these areas re-opened for Easter. Of course Coronavirus hit and destroyed our Easter with travel bans.
However, here we are in June with the Queen’s birthday long weekend having just passed and the September school holidays fast approaching - and these rebuilds aren’t started.
The lack of inaction to help us to recover is infuriating. If they were serious about helping us, they’d be rebuilt with urgency.
As a comparison, at Mallacoota the steps to Bastion Point were burnt. The local Lions club had them fixed within two weeks. The steps to Salmon Rocks is a much easier job than at Bastion Point.
I’ve been heartened by the number of metropolitan people, including MP’s from both sides, who have indicated they are keen to visit to help us recover. Some already have.
But, we need to be able to offer them the best experience we can, not have them turn up and find these locations and attractions in the same state they were the week after the fires.
A good friend, Russell Bates, the publican at Marlo, has observed “when Cape Conran is open, I do well and that means I employ more local people”.
This says it all. If you are going to stand in front of television cameras and say you will help a region recover, you actually have to do it.
I raised these matters again in Parliament last week (our first week back) and it was pleasing to see the metropolitan media pick it up and run with it.
Hopefully this will result in some real action taking place on the ground.
Tourism is going to play such an important part in our economic recovery and it can start with getting our region ready to welcome people back and enjoy a full tourist experience.