The ‘Monash Carpark’ as it appears each morning and evening when the main V/Line bus services to this area are trying to struggle wasting-our-time-in-gippslandhome. It’s getting worse and is definitely holding back the development of the South Gippsland and Bass Coast areas.

By Michael Giles

BASS Coast Shire may be wasting its time, and money, staying in the Gippsland Local Government Network (GLGN) of councils.
And if ever there was a week when the shire should consider pulling out of the GLGN and exclusively throwing its lot in with the municipalities on the south-eastern metropolitan fringe, it’s this one.
In a tale of two opposing regional attitudes to Bass Coast during the past week, the South East Melbourne Councils (SEM); including Cardinia Shire, City of Casey, Frankston City, Greater Dandenong City, Kingston City, Mornington Peninsula Shire and Bass Coast; listed the $71.3 million redevelopment of the Penguin Parade reserve as its big ticket item in their 2014-15 State Budget submission.
Whereas Bass Coast did not even rate a mention in the State Budget bid from Gippsland’s own group of six councils; East Gippsland, Wellington, Latrobe City, Baw Baw, South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
Some crumbs fell from the Princes Highway-dominated table for a $40 million realignment of the South Gippsland Highway, at the treacherous Black Spur bends, south of Koonwarra.
And that’s certainly welcome but the GLGN’s budget submission released last week, like the Gippsland Regional Growth Plan it is based on, is dominated by projects and programs for the municipalities along the Princes Highway spine.
Key transport priorities outlined in the GLGN’s 2014–2015 State Budget submission included:
* $500,000 to develop a Gippsland Rail Freight Corridor Development Study including an assessment of options for connection to Port of Hastings;
* $286 million for high priority rail infrastructure upgrades and rolling stock on the Gippsland line, plus $11 million per annum for operational costs;
* $81 million medium-term rail infrastructure upgrades on the Gippsland line, plus $6 million per annum for operational costs;
* Funding for the following key actions on the Princes Highway corridor:
– Access control improvements between Nar Nar Goon and Longwarry including Sand Road Interchange
– Completion of the Traralgon – Sale duplication
– Commence business case for Traralgon bypass
– Identify preferred alignments for Sale and Bairnsdale truck alternate routes
– Safety and truck rest area improvements east of Bairnsdale
– National Network should be extended from Sale to the Port of Eden.

In defence
Chair of GLGN and Mayor of Wellington Shire, Cr Scott Rossetti, mounted a spirited defence of the group’s priorities in their budget submission.
“We’re looking for projects that stand out as significant for the region and they have to be of important to at least three of the member councils to have regional significance,” Cr Rossetti said.
“Projects in Bass Coast have been supported before and I wouldn’t say it’s an omission not to have a project this time around.”
Cr Rossetti said that both Baw Baw and Bass Coast had a strong connection with the municipalities on the south-east metro fringe, and like Pakenham and Cranbourne before them, they might find their future was more with the South East Melbourne Councils in the future.
“In the meantime, membership of both seems to be a sensible approach,” he said.
Cr Rossetti said it was up to Bass Coast’s representatives on the GLGN, the Mayor Cr Neil Rankine and CEO Allan Bawden, to advocate for projects of regional significance in their area and both tourism initiatives and a review of the area’s public transport strategy could be among them, he said.
“We’ve backed tourism projects in the area before, like the car ferry to Cowes, which wasn’t supported locally, but certainly a public transport initiative which included Yarram would cover three municipalities and could be pursued.”
But, if not even one Bass Coast initiative was able to be worked up into a regional priority, have we got the wrong people pushing our interests?

Not left out
Bass Coast Shire CEO, Allan Bawden has also rejected the idea that ‘Bass Coast never rates a mention’ in GLGN reports and submissions.
“A few years back, the focus of the GLGN submission was the Bass Highway,” Mr Bawden said.
“GLGN advocates on behalf of all Gippsland Councils. Its budget submissions target the really big ticket items, that no one single Council would receive funding for.
“The Gippsland Regional Plan (GRP) has been developed by GLGN and is supported by all Gippsland Councils, the State Government and the Federal Government.
“The plan focusses on the higher order issues affecting the majority of the region. The 2014/15 budget submission from GLGN to the State Government is based on a few key asks drawn from the GRP,” Mr Bawden said.
“The 2014/15 Budget Submission includes some longstanding, complex, expensive projects that will create severe capacity constraints for the region if not addressed immediately. It is an attempt to identify to Government a few key projects that will make a big difference to the regional economy.
* The GRP includes many other projects (short and long term) that are also being advocated for both by GLGN and individual Councils including many Bass Coast issues.
“The GRP, now 4 years old, is currently going through a review and update which will include many Bass Coast issues not sufficiently developed when the previous plan was finalised.
“The new plan will consider the Bass Coast Education Precinct, Bass Coast Cultural Precinct, Sub regional status of the Wonthaggi Hospital, upgrade of the Penguin Parade, road transport improvements, public transport improvements
“The needs of Bass Coast have also been recognised in the recently adopted Gippsland Growth Plan and the Plan Melbourne document (both State Government documents) with Wonthaggi being endorsed as one of six peri urban areas on the fringe of Melbourne capable of accommodating significant growth. The realisation of this strategy will depend on the extent of the government’s commitment to fund services and infrastructure to support this growth.
“The Bass Coast Shire Council is working hard to meet the service and infrastructure needs of our community. It can only do so with the support of other levels of government. We are tackling this on a number of fronts and its pleasing to see Government recognition of our needs in the Gippsland Growth Plan and Plan Melbourne. The GLGN budget submission is only one avenue of approach to the Government and has deliberately focussed on a few projects rather than a long wish list. Each individual council can make its own budget submissions and we will certainly be doing so.”
Echoing Mr Bawden’s remarks, Cr Rossetti said the initiatives to improve access to the Port of Hastings will be of benefit to the whole region, especially the likes of Leongatha’s Murray Goulburn which is the biggest user of the Port of Melbourne.
He also noted that rail freight initiatives were designed to get traffic off the Monash which could only be good for Bass Coast residents and the whole Gippsland region.
Local residents beg to differ, however.
They say there isn’t enough being done to improve public transport to South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
From the Sentinel-Times’ Facebook page:
* Andrew Orr:Just look at Ballarat to see what a positive difference a rail line would make for tourists to here, commuters to the city, etc. Can’t see it happening as long as we’re in a safe seat and there is the current government obsession with roads over public transport. Mind you, now that they’ve all but destroyed the car industry, they could compensate by encouraging long-term infrastructure construction and a local train building industry!