By Michael Giles

THE most important thing, affecting this area at the moment, is the downturn in the dairy industry.
And following some significant falls on the Global Dairy Trade index, by 3.2% on February 21 and 6.3% on March 7, there’s concern about where milk companies will start the price for the new season in June.
So that’s the main game.
Other issues of concern are law and order, water shortages at Korumburra and then the more mundane things affecting the family such as power bills, the quality of our schools, cost of housing and the like.
But it’s also budget time for our local shire councils, at South Gippsland and Bass Coast, although in Bass Coast’s case, they’re dragging the chain again and don’t look like having a draft budget for us to look at until next month at the earliest.
The fact is though, most people simply couldn’t give a toss what the two local shires have in their budgets. Even if they had the time or the inclination to take an interest, they’ve seen that these budgets are generally done and dusted by the time they’re presented for ‘public consultation’.
Coming out a month later than South Gippsland, Bass Coast is leaving even less time for the council or the community to make changes.
But what the community will be interested to see is whether or not the Bass Coast Shire’s financial position is as bad as it has been made out, as the reason for refusing to go after a government grant for the shared highball stadium at the proposed new secondary college.
The community will be looking for the council to state fairly, openly and in layman’s terms what the shire’s finances are really like and what steps it needs to take so that applications for grants can be made in the future, knowing that the grants can be matched by the shire.
This year it seems that the new South Gippsland Shire Council has been able to bring about significant changes to its budget, not only eliminating the big ticket item of a new civic centre, library, and office complex for the shire but also by allocating funds to the RSL land exchange project, to the expansion of the rail trail west of Leongatha and also funds for the proposed Stony Creek equestrian and expo centre projects.
The shire has been petitioned to fast-track the redevelopment of Korumburra’s CBD and the railway station area. And there’s every reason, after the momentum created by the opening of the Karmai Community Children Centre, that the shire should look seriously at bringing forward several of these Korumburra projects.
Initiatives of this type can really give the area a lift while we work through the dairy difficulties.
But the fact is that the budget process should be a real process of public consultation with our councils being full and frank about the funds available, leaving uncommitted funds to accommodate good community initiatives and offering genuine savings on the cost of the shire’s admin.
South Gippsland is ticking some of those boxes, all except saving money on salaries and wages.
With Bass Coast, we don’t know what the hell is going on and even after last week’s botched attempt at addressing the highball stadium mess, we’re none the wiser.
Hopefully the new council is taking the time to better understand the financial position and will bring forward some genuine savings so that such projects as the aquatic centre on Phillip Island and the redevelopment of sports and aquatic facilities in Wonthaggi can go ahead.