The Budget invests $465 million to attract visitors to regional Victoria through the Victorian Tourism Recovery Package. This includes $23 million to reaffirm Wilsons Promontory as one of Australia’s top tourism destinations, including a new 'park and ride' network, new accommodation and improved visitor facilities that can also better connect them with tour operators.
A further $18.5 million will go towards building new accommodation, upgrading the East Gippsland Rail Trail and improving access to remote natural and man-made attractions as part of the Gippsland Tourism Recovery Package, including $6.7 million to upgrade the Mallacoota Inlet and Point Hicks Lighthouse.
Local community facilities will be enhanced, with upgrades slated for the Latrobe Creative Precinct and a new CFA station at Winnindoo.
One of six new Renewable Energy Zones to power Victoria will be in Gippsland.
There's a $626 million Digital Future Now package to improve mobile coverage and broadband access, including Mobile Black Spot funding, reliable high‑speed fibre optic and wireless broadband services.
A $65 million investment will back Victoria’s farmers, growers and producers with a new agriculture strategy, providing better infrastructure and new technology to help farmers connect with new markets around the world.
The pandemic came after bushfires devastated East Gippsland communities at the start of the year, and the Budget helps build and upgrade 1,447 kilometres of fuel breaks across Victoria, targeting the highest priority fire risk areas. This includes upgrading the temporary Cowwarr-Bruthen fuel break in Gippsland, built during the 2019-20 fire season.
As previously announced, the state government is funding its share of the final two sections of Princes Highway duplication between Traralgon and Sale.
Morwell’s Good Money store will be further supported, while the Latrobe Youth Space will receive an extra $1.32 million to recruit more youth workers.
The $6 billion Big Housing Build will deliver 12,000 new social and affordable homes, with at least $60 million guaranteed for the Latrobe Valley.
There is more than $100 million in upgrades for Gippsland schools, to be shared by Bairnsdale and Korumburra secondary colleges, Warragul Regional College, Baringa Special School, Traralgon and Kunai colleges, Churchill North Primary and Hazelwood North.
RESPONSES FROM LOCAL MPs
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the budget was a mixed bag for the Latrobe Valley community. He said he was pleased that some long overdue projects had been committed to.
“I am thrilled that funding has finally been allocated towards a new Newborough Fire Station to which the dedicated volunteers of this brigade had waited so long for. To say they have outgrown their existing station is an understatement and we look forward to a new build occurring sooner than later,” Mr Northe said.
“It was also good news for Hazelwood North Primary School, Kurnai College and Traralgon College senior campus given these schools have been included in the Regional school upgrade program. These schools are well overdue for an upgrade and this announcement will be most welcomed by principals, teachers, staff, students and families of these wonderful local schools.
“The commitment to duplicate Princes Highway East between Traralgon and Sale will also be embraced by travellers and transport companies who are regular users of this important road network.
However Mr Northe said he was disappointed that a specific local jobs program had not been announced, nor funding for a number of worthy organisations.
“The Government announced a massive program that supports the transition to clean energy, yet the Latrobe Valley, which would be the most impacted by such a program, is not even mentioned in the budget. It’s staggering that the Government has announced many policies that directly affect the future life of our local power stations, our local businesses and suppliers and our local community yet there is no commitment to support and assistance to the Valley on any transition plans or otherwise,” Mr Northe said.
Nationals Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull said there was little in the Budget for East Gippsland with big spends outlined for metropolitan based projects.
“Following the year we have had with fires and then Coronavirus on the back of three years of drought, I thought we were due to have some important infrastructure projects knocked off the list, and I expect that is what East Gippslanders anticipated,” he said.
“Completion of the Bairnsdale Secondary College, new fire stations at Lakes Entrance and Metung, a new police station at Orbost and the Maffra Hospital upgrade were all key projects and while I understand we were never going to get them all, it would have been good to get some.
Mr Bull said the college did receive $7.23 million, but in excess of $15m was required to finish the school and get all the students out of the old Wallace Street campus and all on to one site. "This money will not achieve that," Mr Bull said.
“The other element I find a little frustrating is that over the past 12 months we have had East Gippsland businesses screaming for more support to get through this tough period, but they were told it was not there. Now, just months later we see a massive city spend, while many of those country businesses are gone.”
The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien says many crucial projects have gone unfunded in the State Budget, despite billions in spending and sky-rocketing state debt.
Mr O’Brien said he was disappointed to see several much-needed projects had missed out and a lot of opportunities to support Gippsland’s economic recovery were overlooked, while billions is spent on mega-projects in the city.
“I am wrapt that after six years of campaigning we have finally got funding to complete Korumburra Secondary College, but there is no money for Foster Primary School or to start planning for the consolidation of Sale College onto one site," Mr O'Brien said.
“We have a number of fire stations in desperate need of rebuilds at Foster, Mirboo North and Yarram, but only the small station at Winnindoo gets any money.
“These bigger town stations are not fit-for-purpose and are forcing our CFA volunteers to make-do with doors that aren’t even wide enough to fit the trucks through.