BASS MP Brian Paynter is urging the State Government to “pay up” after funding for the long-awaited Wonthaggi Education Precinct project was once again missing in action in the latest state budget.
Taking his parliamentary colleague, shadow education minister Nick Wakeling, for a tour of the deteriorating McBride senior campus last Friday, Mr Paynter said it’s imperative a new school is delivered.
“It’s time to pay up,” Mr Paynter said.
“I expected it to be in the budget and it wasn’t.
“This is not a political football to be kicked around – it’s a very important project to the people of Wonthaggi.”
Just prior to last November’s election, the Coalition made a $21m promise to relocate the secondary school after years of little or no progress for the Education Precinct development.
Both Mr Paynter and Mr Wakeling claim Labor committed to match the Coalition’s funding commitment, citing comments made by Labor candidate Sanjay Nathan at a ‘Meet The Candidates’ forum just days before locals went to the polls.
“They were very clear,” Mr Wakeling said.
“When people went to the ballot box at the last state election, they knew that despite which side got elected to government, they would be getting a new school.
“Clearly, there would be dismay in the community to now learn that this new government has decided to walk away from its election commitment.”
Mr Paynter said he had handed the new government a “shovel ready project on a platter”, which Labor still “failed to deliver.”
Education minister James Merlino assured Labor would continue to work with schools, parents and their communities from the new government’s first day in office until its last.
“We ask that the Gippsland community judge us on what we deliver throughout our entire term and not only our first budget,” Mr Merlino said.
“We are committed to ensuring that every Victorian student has access to the best possible education in a modern learning environment.
“The mess left by the former Liberal Government will not be fixed overnight but we are determined to repair our neglected education system.”
The to-and-fro between political parties has been welcomed by college principal Garry Dennis, if only for the fact it’s at least getting word out about the urgent need for funding.
He confirmed yesterday (Monday) that school council representatives and principals had recently met with Bass Coast councillors, seeking a way to promote further community awareness about the school’s plight.
“We will be putting information in the next school newsletter for parents and we’ll follow that up by releasing more information to the community,” Mr Dennis said.
“It’s just about providing more background information.
“We’ve been saying we need a new school all this time but no one has really articulated why.
“It’s just a matter of keeping it in the public eye because, at the moment, it’s not on any Labor list for future capital works.”
Mr Dennis said he also hopes further information will also dispel any notions that a new secondary college will only benefit Wonthaggi and the surrounding district.
“Ultimately, we want something for the whole of Bass Coast Shire and not just Wonthaggi,” he said, adding that there had already been talks about a name change to reflect the region as a whole.