$9m in fire recovery funds headed to East Gippsland
A number of key projects from Mallacoota to Swift’s Creek have been funded in the latest round of the Federal and State funded Local Economic Recovery (LER) grants program announced today and while local MP’s are happy, they want more.
Local Federal and State representatives, Darren Chester and Tim Bull said this morning it was due reward for many community groups, adding there was now a need to get these projects started and completed.
They described the outcomes as huge wins for East Gippsland.
“Each of these projects are significant to the local communities and it’s a real reward for the hard work of volunteer groups that Tim and I have been able to work together to secure this much needed funding,” Mr Chester said.
“It’s taken longer than many would have liked, but we’re about to see some more recovery action cross the region. It’s critical that work starts as soon as possible.
“Each of these projects will help create local jobs in bushfire impacted communities and deliver long term benefits for locals and visitors to our region.”
Mr Bull said the fact this round of the program was heavily oversubscribed indicated more funds should be allocated from both levels of government and he and Darren would work with those groups to achieve funds from other sources.
“I have also spoken to Bushfire Recovery Victoria and suggested that some of the unsuccessful applicants should be directed to other government grant streams, which will occur,” he said.
“Our recovery is going to take a long time and we need to continue support to these communities, but this is a good start and a number of these projects like those at Mallacoota, Swift’s Creek, Bruthen and the Rail Trail are projects we advocated strongly for in our discussions.
“It is also pleasing to see that over $9m of the $14m on offer is coming to East Gippsland. We were the most severely impacted and I believe we were somewhat short changed in the first round. This is a point I have made strongly with Bushfire Recovery Victoria and the Minister,” he said.
Mr Chester added “we’re determined to keep getting stuff done across East Gippsland and if more funding is required for projects that make our region a better place to live, work, visit and raise a family, I want to assure the community we will help secure the money that’s needed.
“There is still unspent bushfire recovery funding available for us to apply for and Bully and I will be working with all levels of government to secure our share of that money.”
East Gippsland Projects funded under this round:
$1.92 million to upgrade the Swift’s Creek Recreation Reserve that is a critical asset for surrounding communities.
The funded project will replace the existing changerooms, tennis clubroom and social room with one accessible multipurpose building. It will also replace the existing netball court with a competition-compliant one.
$1.89 million to redevelop the Mallacoota Golf Course that suffered significant vegetation loss during the fires.
The Mallacoota Golf Course was severely impacted by the fires and this redevelopment will renew this important recreational asset by revegetating the course into a new links layout, creating an architecturally and environmentally significant golf course.
The layout will follow the natural contours of the coastal land, emulating a true links golf course, with little or no impact on the surrounding environment. The project will also include a public walking trail that will create a continuous circuit from Bastion Point Road to Davis Creek, Betka Beach and back, taking walkers through woodland forest, clay heathland and coastal dunes.
$1.5 million to upgrade the surface of the iconic East Gippsland Rail Trail.
This project will upgrade the surface of the trail, which is one of our most popular year- round tourism attractions, delivering a safe, high-quality trail for all-season cultural and nature-based experiences.
$1.07 million to upgrade facilities at the Bruthen Recreation Reserve to make them more accessible and support the growth of community sports.
The project will upgrade existing amenities and provide additional amenities for club members. It will also construct a second netball court to cater to the expanding club and ensure long-term viability of the playing surfaces for netball and tennis.
$818,000 to upgrade the Mallacoota Hall that was the town’s primary refuge facility during the bushfires and a relief centre in the weeks following.
The hall is Mallacoota’s largest community facility and is used for a wide variety of activities and functions, and was the town’s primary refuge, relief and recovery facility in the 2019-20 bushfires.
This project will improve the day-to-day functionality of the hall, including relocating the main entry to improve accessibility, the creation of additional spaces for storage and offices, and expansion of the existing kitchen.
$432,549 to a mobile Play2Learn program that will engage vulnerable families in informal play spaces and community events.
The Mobile Play2Learn program aims to develop community resilience by extending early childhood and family support services for East Gippsland’s most vulnerable families in bushfire-affected areas.
The program will visit several communities each week, engaging vulnerable children and their families in informal play spaces and at community events to facilitate social connection, build parenting capacity through facilitated play and improve early childhood development, educational and wellbeing outcomes.
$402,125 for an all abilities upgrade to improve the visitor experience at the Lakes Entrance Recreation Reserve.
The upgrade will replace the existing facilities that were built more than 60 years ago. The project includes the construction of an all abilities family room with new amenities that will reduce the facility’s carbon footprint through solar power, insulation and on-demand hot water services.
$362,000 for the development of a cultural walk in Orbost that will support the community to connect with land and culture.
This project includes the development of a cultural walk on a 40-acre property in Orbost, where community can visit to connect with land and culture.
The walk will comprise areas for reflection and healing from the fire events, and opportunities to engage with local Elders. It will include education areas where schools or community groups can come and engage with Aboriginal community.
Native plants will be cultivated and used to re-establish areas that were damaged by the fires. The property will also include a Nursery that will provide employment and training opportunities for young Aboriginal people.
$336,000 to upgrade the Marlo Community Hall that plays a critical role as a community gathering point during emergencies.
The hall was built in 1958 and needs vital upgrades. The project will include repairs to the roof and walls, painting, upgrade of the amenities and bringing the kitchen up to current commercial standards. It will also include the installation of insulation and air conditioning to ensure the hall is comfortable year-round.
$296,000 to rebuild the Mallacoota Pony Club facilities that were destroyed by the bushfires.
The fires destroyed key infrastructure and the rebuilding project will include re-fencing the games arena, replacing awnings on the club room, construction of new amenities, renewal of the cross-country course and replacement of all jumps. It will also renew the car and float parking area and spectator seating and replace general equipment that was lost.
$87,260 to support community participation to improve community facilities in Goongerah.
This project seeks to directly support the community of Goongerah through the construction of a multi-purpose concrete court at the local hall
$40,250 for the construction of an accessible canoe launch on the Snowy River in Buchan and signage to improve the visitor experience.
The Balley Hooley Campground at Buchan is the primary exit point for canoe and kayak paddling on the Snowy River. This project will construct accessible canoe launch infrastructure and install signage at the campground and day visitor area to enhance the visitor experience.
Caption: Local Nationals MP’s Tim Bull and Darren Chester chat to a Sydney visitor enjoying the East Gippsland Rail Trail that has received $1.5m in funding from the latest round of Bushfire Local Economic Recovery grants. The two say this is a big boost for communities but with the fund over-subscribed, they will be seeking additional support.
Riverside camping a flawed policy
This week at State Parliament, hundreds of landholders from across Victoria rallied against the Andrews Labor Government’s flawed regulations that would see camping allowed on land licensed to farmers for grazing.
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, spoke with those from East Gippsland who have significant and justified concerns.
“This was a Bill the Liberal Nationals attempted to move many amendments to in the hope of protecting farmers’ rights, but all were defeated, with the Shooters and Fishers siding with the Labor Government on those attempted changes,” said Mr Bull.
“It is a classic case of a thought bubble policy with no thought given to how it will play out on the ground. They are asking farmers to allow the public open access to areas that are their workplace.
“Some examples of the anomalies are that people can camp within 100 metres of a farmer’s home for 28 days and they can collect half a cubic metre of firewood per day (if camping for a week that is three and a half cubic metres of firewood).
“This is despite farmers not being able to collect firewood themselves on land they have under licence for grazing.
“The Labor Government is saying it will have these areas displayed on an app, so camping groups can just turn up, but the additional problem is, many of these areas are remote and have no reception, so the app will be hard to access meaning they may not arrive in the right spot.
“The Government says it will have regulations around campfires, rubbish and biosecurity, but we all know what happens. These areas are poorly policed now and the government has confirmed not one additional enforcement officer will be provided to oversee this.
“Every year we have Parks put out media releases saying how disappointed they are so many campfires have been left unattended – so what is the answer, we will now let this happen on farms and we are providing no more enforcement officers.
“I have always been a strong advocate for the outdoors, camping and family time, but it has to be fair and this is just not fair.”
Mr Bull said he had also been contacted by caravan park owners near riversides who are concerned about their ongoing viability if all these additional areas nearby are opened up to free camping. One said it could put him to the wall.
“We believe farmers should have an ‘opt in’ and opt out’ option as to whether they are happy to be part of this.
“The biosecurity concerns for a start are very real and you just cannot be relying on people to close gates and not spread weeds. For many it will impact on their right to farm and they will inevitably have to pick up rubbish, excrement and check on camp fires.”
Caption: Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, chats with owner of Glenfalloch Station at Licola, Will Paul, who has significant concerns with the current proposals.
Wednesday, 26 May 2021
Budget reveals cuts, cost blow outs, new taxes and we’re paying for it!
This year’s State Budget has been disastrous for communities in regional Victoria with nearly $285 million slashed from regional development, $61.3 million removed from agriculture, $190m from road maintenance and over $150m from tourism and major events.
This is the view of Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, who said these were the sectors our community relied on for economic stimulus.
“One top of this we also see steep rises in payroll tax, stamp duty and a new tax on businesses already paying payroll tax to fund the mental health levy,” Mr Bull said.
“Victoria’s mental health system is broken and we must act to fix it, but mental health is a core function of government and should be treated as such - rather than as a tax.
“On a local perspective, we have funds to create a P-12 College in Orbost, but the funds needed to consolidate Bairnsdale Secondary College on to one campus again missed out, as did a number of other projects including Maffra Hospital and Orbost police station.
“The disappointing element from an East Gippsland lens is the massive cuts in areas that are so important to us,” he said.
Mr Bull said it was a tough read when you see the cost blowouts on key transport infrastructure projects totalling $22.3 billion – even blowouts on smaller projects are in the tens of millions of dollars.
“The Metro Tunnel is now more than $3 billion, approaching $4 billion, over budget with the risk of further blowouts. Other country projects like the Ballarat train line upgrade has blown out by $114 million and the Regional Rail Revival projects which are 90 per cent funded by the Federal Government have been monumentally mismanaged by Victorian Labor with the blowout on the Bendigo-Echuca Line $84 million, the Warrnambool Line $36 million, the Gippsland Line $97 million,” Mr Bull said.
“City road projects are red ink wherever you look. The Mordialloc Freeway has blown out $223 million from the original promise, the Plenty Road Stage 2 upgrade $40 million and the Yan Yean Road upgrade $31 million. Even the Hallam Road upgrade blew out by $8.5 million.
“Key city rail infrastructure like the Frankston Line Seaford Stabling Project has surged from $197 million to $240 million, an almost $53 million blowout. Other city rail projects the Labor Government has lost control of include the conventional signalling upgrade promised at $360 million but now listed at $608 million, a $248 million blow out.
“The Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage 2 has blown out by $352 million. The High Capacity Metro Train costs have blown out by $67.476 million. None of these projects are in this area, but we have to pay for these over runs. It never ends!
“These funding cuts and increased taxes are from a Government that has run out of money, largely due to its inability to deliver anything on Budget and the problem is, there is no clear plan for recovery.
“With Labor’s land tax take rising by over $1.5 billion over the forward estimates, three quarters of a billion dollars of stamp duty increases on medium priced family homes, as well as a windfall gains tax primarily on regional city housing developments all combine to place Victoria at the back of the queue when it comes to competitiveness and efficiency across Australia.
“The Federal Government increased its payments to Victoria in its budget by more than $6 billion, but the Andrews Government is still hitting Victorians with $5.8 billion in new and increased taxes.”
Friday, 21 May 2021
Fix roads rather than lower limits
A proposal to lower speed limits on regional back roads, rather than fix them lets the Andrews Labor Government off the hook for its underinvestment in country roads.
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said more funding is needed to maintain country roads and a speed limit reduction because of poor road surfaces, was a cop out.
“There have been rumors for some time that roads like Bengworden Road will be reduced to 80 km/h as a deterrent for the increasing number of drivers using the road to avoid the barriers on the Princes Highway between Bairnsdale and Stratford.
“Already signs have been erected saying ‘local traffic only’ on the Bengworden Road.
“This is the government saying we’ve put in these barriers so you can’t get off the road if you have a breakdown and we know you don’t like them, but we don’t want you using the alternate road (as many are doing),” said Mr Bull.
“This proposal by the RACV that would see many roads have speed limits reduced to 80kph is not something country people are seeking. There are certainly roads where you can only do 80 km/h, but it cannot be a blanket approach.
“The Andrews Government has already said it wants to lower country speed limits. It’s concerning that the RACV have now adopted this lazy solution.
“Country drivers pay their RACV membership expecting the group will lobby the government on their behalf, but the organisation is not sticking up for country members if it is advocating for speed limit reductions whereas it should be lobbying for greater investment.
“We have a budget coming up later this month and investment in country roads should be the focus, rather than looking at speed limits.
“It’s not good enough we have signs up for weeks and months telling people to slow down due to their being a traffic hazard (broken surface) ahead. Fix the road rather than slow drivers down,” said Mr Bull.
Monday, 17 May 2021
Services and infrastructure sought in Thursday’s Budget
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, said he was hoping for improvements to certain services and some infrastructure projects to be announced in this Thursday’s State Budget.
“There are certainly some projects we want to knock off the list for sure, but not all are infrastructure and there are certain areas of public service where we simply need to do better,” he said.
“As an example, I would hope we see a commitment to upgrade V/Line trains to make all carriages accessible to those with a disability.
“Local people with special needs have reported waiting hours stranded in the cold at stations waiting for replacement taxis because trains weren’t properly fitted out, despite having requested disability access when the tickets were booked.
“We need funds to fix the issue and a new system in place in the interim to better inform passengers.
Caption: Tim Bull, State MP for Gippsland East, is calling for a funding commitment in this week’s State Budget, that will improve disability access on existing V/Line services.
Monday, 17 May 2021
“I would also like to see the funds committed to make sure all our bushfire recovery is completed by the September school holidays. If money is the hold up, as we are hearing, then that needs to be addressed.”
Mr Bull said from an infrastructure perspective the need to build stage two of the Bairnsdale Secondary College still existed as it was imperative to have all students on one campus, a new Orbost police station to replace the out of date existing facility, funds to widen the Princes Highway between Stratford and Bairnsdale to alleviate the problem of lack of width between the barriers, and some movement on the Maffra Hospital upgrade.
“These are all projects that need addressing and there are many more, this is just a snapshot.
“I am well aware you never get everything you are seeking, but it would be good to get a couple of these projects funded. All we are asking for is our fair share, so let’s hope that is forthcoming, especially with what we have been through in 2020,” said Mr Bull.
Wellington backs timber workers East Gippsland accepts job losses
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has labelled East Gippsland Shire’s response to a report it commissioned showing the Andrews Labor Government’s plan to end the native timber industry would devastate the region’s local economy, as inadequate and extremely disappointing.
“This is a report commissioned by East Gippsland and Wellington councils that shows over 1,100 jobs will be lost and over $300m in economic output per annum removed from the local economy if the industry closes. These are staggering figures and does not include the flow on effects that will simply destroy communities like Orbost and Heyfield and impact heavily on many others,” said Mr Bull.
“However, the responses from the two councils have been very different.
“Wellington came out very strongly the day after the report was released and said it expected better of the State Government out of respect for local communities and it supported the retention of the industry – no ifs or buts there.
“Wellington is also challenging the State Government to provide the data and scientific research to back up this decision (which has not been forthcoming) and is questioning the ‘transition’ when there are no hardwood plantations to transition to.
“That council is really going into bat for these workers, their families and their timber communities,” said Mr Bull.
“East Gippsland, on the other hand, took two weeks to issue a response saying the study ‘will help inform decision making about the native timber harvesting phase out’. This is accepting of the phase out and therefore massive job losses.
“My point is, East Gippsland Council on one hand says the jobs are important, but then separately acknowledges the phase out of the industry and contractors should be afforded work in other sectors. To me these are in stark contradiction and council appears to be trying to ‘rove to two ruckmen’.
“It cannot be both. You are either in the fight as Wellington Shire is and want the industry retained, or you are accepting of the phase out and therefore the job losses. It’s either one or the other, I don’t believe there is any middle ground here.
“Wellington is in for the fight to save the industry and have it continue, while East Gippsland accepts the phase out and therefore job losses that will have major impacts on our communities.
“Full credit to Wellington for standing up for the retention of these local jobs and our industry. The Liberal Nationals have already announced it will overturn this decision if elected next year.
“East Gippsland has a lot of explaining to do to these timber workers and communities in the firing line. It needs to state why it is not fighting as Wellington is to save these timber jobs and these towns.”
Mr Bull said the State Government’s so called ‘transition of the timber industry’ was a complete falsity. The reality is hardwood takes around 30-60 years to mature depending on species and conditions, so if there was to be a ‘transition’, hardwood plantation coupes would need to be at least 20 years old now.
“Fact is they aren’t and worse still, they don’t exist!
“The demand for hardwood is increasing and in fact Planet Ark is telling us to use it, as wood is a renewable environmentally friendly resource, but here we are closing it down with no replacement. It will only drive up hardwood imports from jurisdictions with less oversight.
“This is about closing down an entire sector that will result in significant job losses in our community at a time when we need help and support.
“The industry harvests four trees in every 10,000 per year in Victoria and only has access to 5% of the forest, of which, only 0.16% of that 5% is harvested each year, with these trees replanted to ensure the sustainability of the industry for future generations,” he said.
Mr Bull said he has spoken to individual councillors who openly supported the continuation of the timber industry and hoped council would reconsider its position with a strong stance in support of timber worker families and timber communities.
Friday, 14 May 2021