Hey Mr Andrews, don’t forget about us!
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Hey Mr Andrews, don’t forget about us!

State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, with VicRoads’ Bruce Strong looking at a badly damaged section of the Great Alpine Road near Cobungra that received funding for much needed repairs from the previous Coalition Government.  Mr Bull is calling on the Andrews’ Labor Government to not forget rural road funding in the upcoming May budget.

Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, said he was hoping for good news for East Gippsland in next month’s May Budget and encouraged Labor not to forget rural and regional Victoria, at the same time expressing grave concerns about massive rural road funding cuts, which he said was the most critical concern for the region.

“The reality is Labor is stating it is going to spend $1billion on country roads over the next eight years – when the fact is the Coalition spent $1billion on non-metro roads over the past two.

“So while we were spending $500 million per year, Labor has announced it is going to spend $125m per year – I am sure all East Gippslanders will agree that this is a massive cut in an area we can ill afford.

“At first we thought this was a mistake in their funding platform, but when our Shadow Roads Minister challenged the Government, it did not change this figure or refute it.

“We have a lot of road work currently underway and anyone just has to drive the Highway from the border to the Latrobe Valley to see a sample. This was funded by the Coalition, but my concern is this work will dry up later this year when there remains much to do,” said Mr Bull.

“To me the roads funding cut is the most critical issue for our region, but the Andrews’ Government need only look at the Coalition’s pre-election commitments for Gippsland East for ideas about the region’s needs and these include, but are not limited to:

•    $12.5 million to complete Stage Two of Bairnsdale Secondary College
•    $173m V/Line rail upgrade package, much of which was for the Gippsland line
•    $10 million  to continue the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District
•    Additional weekend train services to Stratford and Bairnsdale
•    $75,000 for the Maffra Hospital master plan
•    $200,000 to upgrade Apex Park at Lakes Entrance
•    $1.2 million for a synthetic playing surface for the region
•    $350,000 to join with East Gippsland Shire to develop an adventure festival
•    $50,000 to upgrade the Swift’s Creek netball facilities
•    $2m to undertake voluntary buy-back of Gippsland Lakes’ Commercial fishing licences.

“These are just some of the commitments made, but I will also be looking to the new Government to continue some existing funding streams as we had committed to, including $8 million over four years to continue the Gippsland Lakes Environment Fund.

“The Budget also provides the chance for the new Government to reinstate some very important programs it has already publicly said it will cut. These include:

•    The $160m Country Roads and Bridges Program that saw Wellington and East Gippsland Shires each receive $1m per year for urgent works on their networks (this is on top of the general roads funding cut mentioned above).
•    The $10.4 million Roadside Weed and Pest program that again saw Wellington and East Gippsland Shires receive funds committed to predominantly roadside weed control.
•    The wild dog bounty that resulted in over 1,500 pelts being handed in – many from the Tambo and Licola Valleys.

“I have said on a number of occasions over recent years, the vast majority of announcements made by the Coalition came over the course of the year rather than on Budget Day as this was the nature of the Regional Growth Fund where applications were assessed year round.

“The All Abilities Playground, library and mall upgrades, Bastion Point Boat Ramp, Macalister Irrigation District upgrade, the rail line upgrade and more public transport services, new sports facilities and many other multi-million dollar projects were all made over the course of the year.

“However now the Regional Growth Fund has been scrapped, there is more of a focus on Budget Day for the regions and we need some good news, particularly in the area of roads.”