By Michael Giles

THE past year certainly presented its challenges, chief among them being the downturn in milk prices and the events associated with it.
The Federal and Local Government elections were a distraction.
The road toll took a worrying shift upwards.
And there were a lot of incidents overseas that dominated the airwaves.
But it’s a new year now and we should try to look forward with optimism if we can.
The state of the dairy industry remains the chief concern locally and while we have seen some upward movement in the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) index in the past few months, it eased back again in December, indicating we aren’t out of the woods yet.
At least the season has been favourable for the dairy farmers, minimising their feed and other input costs and we certainly wish them all the best for improvement as the year progresses.
On the plus side, most of the other agricultural sectors are faring well locally.
Aside from a lift in dairy prices, the other things we want to see locally are many and varied, with funding for a new senior campus of the Wonthaggi Secondary College at the top of the list.
We have to wait until the May State Budget to receive confirmation of that but there’s nothing wrong with some community lobbying in the meantime.
Seeing a start to work on the Black Spur bends at Koonwarra, as a feature of general road work improvements, will be good.
The redevelopment of the Penguin Parade and a long-waited start to work on the Long Jetty at Port Welshpool book-end the tourism development projects we can look forward to in 2017, but there’s a lot in that space that can be done and extending the rail trail to Korumburra and beyond should be a priority.
The development of the tourism industry locally is something that could stand a significant investment by government, both in promotion and infrastructure, and as the Melbourne metro area continues its sprawl out to fast-growing areas like Clyde (near Cranbourne), government is going to have to look seriously at investing in this area.
We’d also like to see a better flow of information from Bass Coast Health about its plans to develop capability and services at the Wonthaggi hospital after a period of consolidation.
We’ve got the official opening of the Karmai Community Children’s Centre to look forward to in Korumburra and the work on the secondary college is also progressing at a pace.
At Wonthaggi we’re looking forward to developments at the Wonthaggi Recreation Reserve.
But we can’t simply wait for government or local government to come up with the ideas or to look favourably on our ideas with funding. We’ve got to work through our community organisations to make things happen ourselves.
And, as usual, your local newspaper, the Sentinel-Times stands ready to beat the drum and help highlight the issues and where necessary, help break through the red tape that holds worthy projects back.