FUNDING for local roads and bridges maintenance, rail improvements to relieve bottlenecks and safety upgrades for the South Gippsland Highway are among key priorities in this year’s Gippsland Local Government Network (GLGN) State Budget submission.
With only weeks remaining until the Labor Government unveils its first Budget following the 2014 election, the region’s mayors have sent a clear message that transport infrastructure is at the top of their agenda.
This includes a call for $40 million to realign the South Gippsland Highway (A440) at the section known as ‘Black Spur’, south of Koonwarra.
The submission states that the highway, also known as A440, provides a crucial route to market for many of the region’s dairy and primary producers, as well as oil and gas and is the gateway to some of most significant tourism destinations including Phillip Island Wilson’s Promontory.
“The ‘Black Spur’ section of the South Gippsland Highway has become a notoriously dangerous stretch of road within which 13 accidents have taken place during the past five years.”
GLGN chair Cr Peter Neal said the councils are collectively concerned that transport infrastructure is failing to keep up with population growth across the region.
“Gippsland includes some of the fastest growing municipalities in the state and is forecast to grow by an additional 116,000 people by 2041.
“While we are fortunate to have a good transport spine running from east to west, capacity is already stretched and with the Gippsland rail line regularly experiencing overcrowding, delays and reliability issues, it’s only going to get worse.
“Our submission identifies three key bottlenecks along the Gippsland rail line which, if addressed, will not only improve passenger services but also support population and economic growth.
“These include the replacement of the Avon River Bridge at Stratford and track duplication works between Longwarry and Bunyip, and between Hernes Oak and Morwell,” Cr Neal said.
The network’s submission, available at www.glgn.com.au, also calls for commitments to maintain a series of existing funding streams, which are due to expire in the coming months.
“Under the former Government, rural councils across the state have each received funding of up to $1 million to help in keeping on top of road and bridge maintenance, with a strong say in how and where those funds are spent,” Cr Neal said.
“While the Labor Government has committed $1 billion over eight years for regional and rural roads, it’s not clear how these funds will be distributed so we’re asking for a commitment to maintain existing funding levels, as a minimum.
“Similarly, we are calling on the government to continue the current roadside weeds and pest control program, which is due to run out in June,” Cr Neal said.
Other priorities include $50,000 to support the development of a South West Gippsland Transport Strategy — aimed at identifying ways of improving transport links between southern and western parts of the region — and $8.5 million over four years to fund the continuation of the Gippsland Lakes Ministerial Advisory Committee.
GLGN is an alliance of six Gippsland councils who work collaboratively on issues and projects of mutual interest and advocate to State and Federal Government on behalf of the region.
The group consists of Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland, Latrobe City, South Gippsland and Wellington shire councils.