THE $9.7 billion deal for the lease of the Port of Melbourne will deliver $970 million for regional road and rail projects in Victoria, including $3 million for cattle underpasses.
But whether there’s enough for the realignment of the South Gippsland Highway at the notorious Black Spur remains to be seen.
State treasurer Tim Pallas headed to the Dowling family farm at Berrys Creek on Thursday for the underpass announcement.
But when quizzed about funds being made available for the major work at Koonwarra, Mr Pallas said the Federal Government was putting many projects all over the state at risk.
“We have delivered on our election commitment to lease the port and use the funding to build roads and public transport in regional Victoria and create thousands of jobs.
“Malcolm Turnbull had agreed to top up this funding by 15 per cent – or about $1.4 billion – just like he did in Sydney and Perth.
“But he has reneged on this commitment, ripping off Victorians by $650 million (or $65 million for regional Victoria).”
Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien said the State Government needs to get on with these major projects and stop playing politics.
“Labor now has the money and absolutely no excuse not to fully fund projects that will deliver better rail services and roads for those in Gippsland and make it safer and more efficient to get from school, home and work.
“The Commonwealth has set aside $25 million for the South Gippsland Highway. This investment, coupled with matching funds from the State, would go a long way to provide safer and better roads.
“This is an important project. The State Government now has the money and should be getting on with it.
“Gippsland roads are in a poor state of repair, they need additional funding spent on them and Labor now has no excuse.”
The cattle bypass funding, however, was warmly welcomed.
Mr Pallas encouraged producers to apply for the grants, with funding available from December this year.
Dairy and beef farmers around Victoria can apply for grants of up to $50,000 to enable them to move stock across their property unhindered by dangerous road crossings, particularly during peak milking times.
This will be the sixth round of the CUPS (Cattle Underpass) program, which was initially established by the former Bracks Government in 2000. Since then, some 500 cattle underpasses have been built with a clear demand for more to be constructed.
“We said that leasing the port would allow us to fund the essential infrastructure our primary producers need to run safe, productive businesses – and this is a clear example of exactly that.”
The Victorian Farmer’s Federation will administer the scheme with funding provided to enable them to effectively manage the program delivery and promote it to farmers.
“This is a great opportunity for dairy farmers to invest in maintaining their efficiency while also improving workplace safety,” United Dairyfarmers of Victoria vice president John Versteden said.
“The CUPS program has been very popular in the last five rounds and in our experience it gets over-subscribed very quickly, so dairy farmers need to keep their eyes out for more information on how to apply.”
“As farms get bigger and bigger there is even more demand for underpasses It’s just unsafe going over roads especially with the larger herds, so underpasses are just a must have now.”
The CUPS program is being funded by the Government’s $200 million Agriculture Industry and Jobs Fund (AIJF), which aims to create jobs, boost exports, and support farmers in transporting their products from paddock to port.