By Mitch Guy
THE Phillip Island Penguin Parade will receive a much-needed $58.2 million upgrade after Premier Daniel Andrews announced the State Government will provide $48.2 million in the upcoming 2016/17 Victorian budget.
The funds, combined with an additional $10 million from the Phillip Island Nature Parks (PINP), will allow PINP to redevelop the attraction’s visitor centre, replacing the out-dated 1988 facility with a larger and better equipped centre.
The redevelopment will also allow the penguin colony to prosper, with over eight hectares of habitat to be restored for the Island’s penguin colonies.
PINP is the area’s largest employer and the major redevelopment will create 620 new jobs a year, including around 110 construction personnel while the redevelopment is underway.
PINP already supports 1350 full time jobs and is one of Australia’s most popular wildlife attractions with over 600,000 visitors per year to the Penguin Parade, and almost 1.3 million visitors per year to all of the Nature Parks’ attractions.
The project will potentially increase visitation to the Penguin Parade by more than 20 per cent over 10 years.
Premier Andrews announced the funding on Thursday at the Penguin Parade and said the project is a big win for jobs, tourism and Phillip Island.
“This is the best part of $60 million invested in keeping strong what is just such a fantastic place for families, for tourists and for jobs,” he said.
“That’s what we have to do. It’s a very competitive market and with these profound investments in this facility, the conservation values are very clear and the economic benefit is really clear.
“Thousands of Victorians’ livelihoods depend on this being the very best Penguin Parade and the very best nature-based tourism experience that anyone in the world has to offer.
“That’s the vision and this package of funding will see us turn that into the reality that it needs to be.
“(The PINP make) a $400 million contribution to Victoria’s thriving economy.
“The best facilities mean the best experience and that means more visitors, more income, more jobs and more prosperity for our state.
“It’s just one example, indeed a shining example, of the visitor economy and the impact it has right throughout Victoria.”
The Premier was joined by Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change Lisa Neville and Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing at the announcement.
Ms Neville said PINP strongly tells the story that a healthy environment equates to a healthy economy.
“That’s really been the story of Phillip Island from the Joan Kirner Government buying back properties to enable the habitat and growth of penguins – without that we wouldn’t have the 32,000 penguins we have now,” she said.
“Unfortunately the penguins have decided that they actually need another area to breed in and that area happens to be where the current building is.
“The driver here is about improving and protecting the penguins, our seabirds and research and conservation work that we do here and at the same time, enable us to provide better visitor experiences to the many hundreds of thousands of people that come here.
“This is our most visited paid attraction in Victoria. The only attraction visited more is the Twelve Apostles which of course is not paid.”
CEO Matthew Jackson was thrilled with the announcement of funding, which will allow PINP to implement a large piece of its master plan.
“The best benefactor of this whole thing is the Phillip Island community and the region and obviously penguins are a part of that,” he said.
Mr Jackson said PINP would look to employ local subcontractors to complete the redevelopment where they can.
“We’ve just go to look at the procurement processes and we’re working with the government now, so at this stage we’re waiting for the budget to come to fruition,” he said.
“We’re always looking at our local procurement being local contractors where possible.”
PINP chair Jeff Floyd thanked the community for its support.
“You do not get a project like this up and approved by the State Government unless you’ve got alignment with your community,” Mr Floyd said.
“We’ve got to thank the community because they respect and have bought into the vision that the environment’s first and to protect the environment we need to have some revenue.
“Without that community support we wouldn’t have got this up.”
Anything else for the Island?
PREMIER Daniel Andrews gave little away when quizzed about any further funding for Phillip Island at Thursday’s announcement.
“The budget will be delivered next week and the treasurer will have a lot to say about things like roads, transport and schools and health services, and I think every part of the state will share in those benefits,” he said.
“Today’s about making an announcement that I think is of profound importance to jobs in this particular region and right across the state.
“I’d be confident that it would be welcomed by Phillip Island residents and we thank them for being the guardians if you like of this very, very special place – one that we all benefit from.”
THE reaction to the Penguin Parade funding wasn’t all positive, according to comments on the Sentinel-Times’ Facebook page.
Here’s a selection of the responses to Daniel Andrews’ announcement.
• What a joke! Wonthaggi hospital needs upgrading, Wonthaggi needs a new secondary college, a Bass Coast autistic school, new multi-court sports stadium, a new art/cinema complex, upgrades to the existing outdoor netball courts and upgrades to our roads. Cowes needs their hospital reopened and a pool… I really don’t think the penguins will notice if they don’t get $50m.
• What about our roads? Our medical facilities? Our increasing population that requires a high school to take the load off Wonthaggi? The penguin parade is already over the top.
• What about the farmers who are finding it a bit tough at the moment?
• What a bloody joke. We can’t get $6 million for the Long Jetty in Port Welshpool!
• And they closed the hospital due to lack of funds – what a joke.
• Why don’t they move the penguins to the secondary college and two problems will be solved?
• Lucky he didn’t have to go to hospital from a mutton bird bite.
• I guess it’s a big bonus that they have finally found Bass Coast after years of total neglect. Now for a new secondary college.
Tourism’s big boost
THE Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) has welcomed the announcement of funding for the upgrade of the Phillip Island Penguin Parade.
Chief Executive of the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) Dianne Smith said the Penguin Parade is one of the top three regional attractions for Chinese visitors.
“China is a huge market – 490,000 overnight visitors in 2015 alone – and it is growing,” she said.
“It is vital that our attractions are equipped to cater for the increasing number of visitors, so that the experience is engaging, of the highest quality and protects this important state asset.
“The Penguin Parade upgrade is also a great example of what investment in tourism can do for regional communities – more new jobs, more new visitors, all of which will attract more money into the local economy.”
The VTIC looks forward to more positive outcomes for the visitor economy in next week’s 2016-17 State Budget.
Tourism and events are growth industries for Victoria, contributing $19.6 billion to the state economy each year and employing more than 200,000 people.