Orbost, Bairnsdale office open times halved, but “no reduction in service”
Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, has said the major reduction in office hours at both Bairnsdale and Orbost DEECA (formerly DELWP) offices “does not mean there is a reduction in service to our Gippsland community”.
“Orbost has gone from being open 40 hours per week to 15 hours per week and the bigger Bairnsdale office is only open 20 hours per week, half the time it previously was.
“The response came after questions were asked by Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, who said the response from the Minister as “laughable”.
“It is yet another case of this city-centric government thinking we have come down in the last shower and it is time our councils and chambers of commerce stood up and said enough is enough on some of some of these issues.
Mr Bull said there were other concerning elements of the Minister’s response, including:
• The acknowledgement that what were local front of office services have been transitioned to a “customer contact centre” phone line, and
• The statement that a call service “saves people the inconvenience of needing to make time to travel to an office during working hours.”
“Firstly, what they are doing here is transitioning what have been local face to face services to a call service with a remote non-local response and secondly, they make the point of people being able to call rather than travel during office hours. However, closing these offices on a Friday does not take into consideration tourists coming into our region for a weekend break. If they were going to open limited days each week, Friday should be one of them,” said Mr Bull.
“In addition, when I raised the matter of East Gippsland being one of the three most fire prone areas in the world and the need for the State office that deals with fires open every day the response was “that is why Victorians have access to the VicEmergency app and why we use the broadcasters such as the ABC to ensure critical and time sensitive advice is provided to everyone”.
“There is no understanding not everyone has a smart phone or access to radio with patchy coverage in the area.
“The bottom line is all our residents should have the option of turning up to an office – in office hours – and be able to talk to a local as they have always done.
“In an area of growing population, the answer is not reduced Government office hours,” said Mr Bull.
Wednesday, 29 March 2023
Take advantage of the Power Saving Bonus
On the back of last week’s announcement that power bills are set to spike, The Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, encourages local residents to take advantage of the Power Saving Bonus.
The latest round of the $250 Power Saving Bonus opened on the 24th March and eligible households, including those that received payments under previous rounds, are encouraged to apply.
“Families, pensioners and small businesses are bracing for power price hikes in excess of 30% next year, so I urge everyone eligible to take advantage of the Power Saving Bonus,” Mr Bull said.
“The cost of living continues to spiral out of control, an extra $250 in the bank account can mean the difference between putting food on the table or heating the home.
“While this is by no means a cure-all for the hip-pocket pain people right across East Gippsland are enduring, it’s cash back at a time when people need it most.”
For further information, eligibility criteria and to apply, visit the Victorian Energy Compare website at https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au/.
Monday, 27 March 2023
Decision gives local businesses the raw prawn
Nationals Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, has raised in Parliament this week a ludicrous anomaly that is stopping Gippsland Lakes recreational fishers from catching prawns and crabs for consumption – a determination that is impacting several local businesses.
“According to the Department of Health, commercial fishers can now legally harvest crabs and prawns on the Gippsland Lakes for human consumption after the department recently provided the green light after testing confirmed quality concerns no longer existed,” Mr Bull said.
“However, strangely, the Department of Health advice has not changed for recreational fishers and is still recommending that shellfish, prawns and crabs caught in the Gippsland Lakes should not be consumed.”
Mr Bull said there should not be two sets of rules and in the past, the all-clear has been given concurrently.
“We have had locals contact the Department of Health and even other government agencies contact the department to have them revisit this, but they do not respond, and this advice has now remained in place for a fortnight.
“In this past week I have had contact from two businesses who are significantly economically impacted by this feet dragging episode.
“We have Easter approaching, which is a big weekend for the recreational fishing industry and those who rely on day boat hire and recreational fishing more generally should not have this unnecessary impediment remaining because someone is not doing the paperwork,” Mr Bull said.
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, is calling for the Department of Health to clear-up advice surrounding the safe consumption of prawns, crabs and shellfish caught in the Gippsland Lakes, before tourists arrive this Easter.
Wednesday, 22 March 2023
Govt must fix VPTAS
Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, has called on the Health Minister to fix the failing Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme (VPTAS) payment reimbursements.
“While our health system is in crisis, one element the government can fix quickly is VPTAS, which covers some of the travel and accommodation costs incurred by rural Victorians when they must travel more than 100 kilometres one way for specialist medical treatment.
“It is widely used by a number of East Gippslanders who have to travel to Melbourne and other locations to receive the specialist treatment they require.
“Due to the out-of-pocket costs incurred, prompt turnaround in payment of 6-8 weeks is the guideline to ensure patients are not left short-changed for extended periods.
“However, I have this month received complaints from people who are only now being reimbursed for trips made as far back as August – seven months ago.
“This is a matter that has been raised before and the government has said it will address the issue, but it appears another case of it not having done what it said it would do, to the detriment of rural patients,” Mr Bull said.
“Obtaining a specialist appointment is hard enough at the present time, but then having to fork out the upfront costs and be made to wait triple the benchmark time to be reimbursed is just not good enough.
“I would hope this government allocates the necessary resources to ensure these applications are processed in a reasonable timeframe.
“While we continue to see the bureaucracy grow and the Premier’s personal office expand considerably since coming to office, we see areas that are important to taxpayers being ignored.”
Monday, 20 March 2023
More fire preparation needed
The lack of bushfire mitigation works being undertaken in East Gippsland – and the need to do more - has been raised again in State Parliament by Nationals' Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
Mr Bull told Parliament “it seems this government has not learnt from the 2019/20 fires as we are headed down a similar path due to a lack of concerted action”.
“Our roadsides are out of control with fuel loads. The above average rainfall has seen a vegetation explosion after the fires with black wattle infestation in many areas and head high grass. In addition, we still have large piles of wooden debris pushed up after the fires sitting on the roadsides adjacent to private freehold that burnt in 2019/20.
“These windrows make home owners who have been burnt out once very nervous and, despite having raised this many times, we see inaction as the department dither as to whose responsibility it is.
“We saw these unmaintained roadsides act as wicks in the last fire event, but we again allow them to get out of control. The blame will sit with the relevant Ministers if we have a repeat as you have all had multiple warnings to address it.
“Secondly, the bureaucracy around approvals that need to be obtained for roadside burns is becoming a very difficult process. This needs to be streamlined to allow our CFA volunteers to better protect our communities, not be restricted by the levels of approval that have to be obtained. They are the experts in roadside burns and they should be entrusted to do this rather than have to get approvals from agencies that are not experts in the field.
“Thirdly, fire tracks through the bush that are important for our firefighters are not being maintained to the level required.
“It will be too late when the fires hit again and it is when, not if.
“This government needs to focus more on these areas and ensure we are ready and prepared,” he said.
Monday, 20 March 2023
Buchan pool timeframe sought (again)
After being told two and a half years ago by the Environment Minister that a plan was being developed for the Buchan pool to be opened, and then advised it would be open by September last year, Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, is asking why the facility remains closed.
“I was in Buchan two weeks ago and the pool still has the ‘closed’ signs up for all to see. It has just dragged on too long,” Mr Bull said.
“We were told two and half years ago that technical specialists were being engaged to ensure a compliant pool could operate.
“Following this we were then advised a solution had been determined that involved diverting the natural spring and using town water and that the facility would be open by the September school holidays 2022.
“However, here we are in February 2023 and my office has heard nothing in relation to why it has been delayed or when it will be open to the public and another summer has now passed.
“We all know towns like Buchan rely heavily on the tourist industry and the pool has been a regular attraction for year on end, until recent times.
“Apart from the enjoyment it gives locals and visitors, it’s also of historical significance.”
Mr Bull said he has asked the Minister to provide an update and according to parliament requirements, should receive a response within a month.
Caption: Buchan Caves Reserve’s A.E Lind Swimming Pool was drained and closed in December 2019 after it was established the pool did not meet the relevant public health standards.
Monday, 6 March 2023