Liberal candidate for Bass, Brian Paynter, shakes the hand of College Principal Garry Dennis after Premier Denis Napthine’s major pre-election announcement. G214614
By Gav Ross
THE granddaddy of election promises was announced by the Premier himself in Wonthaggi yesterday – a $21 million relocation and upgrade of Wonthaggi Secondary College’s senior campus.
Making the announcement in a classroom at the ailing McBride Avenue Campus, Dr Denis Napthine said the commitment includes the acquisition of land, planning and relocation of the entire senior campus to a larger site at the far end of McKenzie Street – which has been earmarked for the long-awaited ‘Education Precinct’ for over a decade.
Dr Napthine said the announcement would lead to further opportunities at the McKenzie Street site, including vocational and university training.
“This will be a huge step forward for this district,” Dr Napthine said.
“If we’re re-elected we will get on with the job with that $21 million.”
News that the Education Precinct could finally be moving forward was part of a broader announcement from the Coalition, which has promised an additional $5.4 billion for primary and secondary education over the next four years, if re-elected.
Liberal candidate for Bass, Brian Paynter, described yesterday as “an historic day for Wonthaggi”.
“We’re going to change the game for education here,” he said.
“Most importantly, we are going to lift the aspirations of all students attending this school.
“These students will now have future access to TAFE and university courses because the facilities will be here in Wonthaggi.”
Retiring MP Ken Smith, who has often been criticised for not coming through with the goods when it came to an announcement such as yesterday’s, said: “This is now actually going to happen.”
“You students will probably just be leaving the school though,” he joked with those in the classroom.
“But it may well be your brothers or sisters or whoever coming to a brand new school just up the road.”
College principal, Garry Dennis, who welcomed the news, said he was only informed of the announcement mere hours before camera crews rolled up on the campus’s doorstep at 9am.
“The amount of money is more than I would have expected,” Mr Dennis said.
“It’s certainly more than enough to build a senior school for between 600 and 700 students.”
No invite for Mayor
Despite Bass Coast Shire Council being a key player in the formulation of the Education Precinct plan over 10 years ago, no-one from the council was visible at the announcement.
Mayor Cr Neil Rankine indicated there was a fair reason for this – he wasn’t “required”.
Cr Rankine said that when the council received word of the Premier’s visit yesterday morning, an email to CEO Paul Buckley noted that “councillors were not required.”
Asked whether Mr Buckley had been had been asked along to the press conference, a shire spokesperson said: “We had a late call advising that the announcement was being made, but prior commitments meant we couldn’t make it.”
Regardless, Cr Rankine congratulated the Coalition on announcing “a very significant step” in the development of the Education Precinct.
“Council has been working hard for many years, lobbying for investment in our education system,” he said.
The council is also seeking to gain similar commitments to education in Bass Coast from other parties, with the State Election only two weeks away.
“Any community would welcome this kind of investment promise, as we do.
We call on the parties and candidates to match this commitment.”
Labor candidate for Bass, Sanjay Nathan, was also in Wonthaggi yesterday, campaigning outside the early voting centre on Murray Street.
Mr Nathan questioned why the Coalition could not make an announcement regarding an upgrade of the school in the past four years the Napthine Government has been in power.
“It’s easy for a government to come out during this period and announce this is going to happen,” he said.
Mr Nathan said he has been working tirelessly to get “a good result” for students at Wonthaggi Secondary College and will continue to do so.