By Michael Giles
THE Premier Daniel Andrews has made good on his promise.
When he visited Wonthaggi in February this year he pledged that, within three months, he would task a group of State Government Ministers to meet with the Bass Coast Shire and the local community to discuss a range of key issues and projects.
Last Friday, well ahead of schedule, they arrived in spades.
Education, Health, Agriculture and Regional Development, Tourism, Water and Energy/Resources… all of the big ones affecting regional Victoria and this area in particular, were all here.
Thanks, Mr Premier!
But it wasn’t just a talkfest. The Deputy Premier James Merlino said that himself when wrapping up the positive sentiment expressed on the day.
In fact he said there were exciting times ahead for Bass Coast.
“I can assure you that things will happen here.”
And one of the key things he was talking about was that the senior campus of the Wonthaggi Secondary College which he said was doing nothing to raise aspiration levels among state school kids in this region; taking aim at the poor facilities, not the college’s excellent staff and kids.
So bad are conditions at Wonthaggi that they can’t be allowed to stand a moment longer and, having made these acknowledgments, the town’s ‘Education Precinct’ project simply must be funded in the State Budget on April 27.
Expectation levels have been raised (for a third time) to such a level that it has simply become a not-negotiable item.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy has also witnessed the shortcomings at the Wonthaggi hospital first hand and must also act now.
And having acknowledged that local, state and federal governments have consistently neglected the infrastructure needs of the expanding Bass Coast tourism sector; immediate funding for a new Penguin Parade Visitors’ Centre, at the very least, is also a must in this year’s budget.
It’s a no brainer when you look at the tourism stats.
We know it and now the State Government knows it. This area has been neglected for far too long and it’s time to play catch-up.
The Bass Coast Shire Council should be congratulated for facilitating the visit and the roundtable discussions and they need to take this energy forward and advocate further for improvements.
But there’s also a challenge there for the shire as well, being included by the Deputy Premier in his assessment that all three levels of government have neglected the infrastructure needs of the shire.