THERE’S no way of getting around it.
Strzelecki Ward Councillors, Lorraine Brunt and Aaron Brown, voted against moving the Korumburra revitalisation and secondary college footpath projects forward by two years at a special budget and council plan meeting last week.
There’s $179,393 for detailed design work on the revitalisation of the main street in this year’s budget (2017-18), and the shire is yet to apply for grant money for the $3.5 million project, but after last week’s special meeting, it won’t happen before 2020-21.
Cr Andrew McEwen wanted to move the town revitalisation project, railway precinct work and new community hub forward to the following year (2018-19) saying it was no more than the shire was doing for Leongatha.
But Cr Brunt said putting one project in would cause others to drop out and she was critical of Cr McEwen for causing angst by going out into the community and setting one town against the other.
In the end, the status quo remained, as it did after almost all of the community submissions were considered.
Cr McEwen moved the following motion, seconded by Cr Jeremy Rich that was ultimately lost:
“That council develops a revitalisation priority project for Korumburra involving upgrading Commercial Street, building the community hub and redeveloping the railway station precinct and that the Commercial Street renewal be brought forward to the 2018-19 financial year, and the community hub to the 2018-19 financial year.”
He was adamant the shire could afford it and that it would provide an economic boost when needed.
“The revitalisation of Korumburra’s main street and the revitalisation project is a critical economic development investment in the shire. Council’s draft plan that we have at the moment is very clear about shifting priorities towards economic development. This would bring forward, and it can be affordable given the reserves we’ve got, if we change priorities within the plan, it can be brought forward. Of course it would be dependent on gaining grant money for the priority project but this is the equivalent of what we’ve done for Leongatha and I strongly supported that for Bair Street and the railway precinct development and the main road coming in. This is a very similar investment. It is bringing forward something that, in reality, and I’ve door-knocked the whole of Korumburra twice now, there is a strong and at time intense feeling that they have been left behind in terms of investments in the shire and the figures going back would indicate that has been the case.”
He said that feeling was starting to change with the opening of the new Karmai Children’s Centre but that there was still a long way to go.
“But if we really want to focus on economic development at a time when the dairy industry is under stress, when the likelihood is that China is coming off the boil and we could be headed for a hard landing which will create real problems for our agriculture sector generally this is a positive investment, saying that Korumburra matters and that we recognise the economic priority of this.”
He said there had been a lot of talk at the Korumburra Business Association and roundtable about moving this project forward to continue the momentum in the town, noting that the post office in Korumburra and other business owners were reporting that there had been a substantial increase in the number of people coming into the town but that they recognised that Korumburra would have to have “contemporary facilities” and that the reality is that Korumburra looks like a 1960s or 1970s town.
“And the footpath is positively dangerous. People are falling on it and we need to showcase Korumburra and Leongatha as being pivotal towns in our shire and ones that we are prepared to invest in to showcase the economic development of the shire.”
Cr Jeremy Rich supported the motion saying that the longer the shire left the historic railway station unused the more they would fall into disrepair. He said the shire should bring forward these projects, not only to protect the historic assets but also to attract more people.
He said making it a commercial centre would give the shire an economic return.
Cr Meg Edwards poured cold water on their enthusiasm, saying she would be happy to look at it next year but that she was uncomfortable about bringing such an expensive project forward.
“I think the argument of equity doesn’t quite stack up here. The community hub as I understand it would cost around $5.2 million, Coal Creek is obviously a significant investment on a recurrent basis every year and the streetscape that it happening in 2020-21 will cost $3.5 million with the council putting in $1.8.”
She said Korumburra supplies about 9 per cent of rate revenue but when “I look at my little Fish Creek supplying 3 per cent of rate revenue we have nothing like a third of the facilities that Korumburra has.”
She said we can relook at this one again next year.
Cr Lorraine Brunt took what she indicated was a more pragmatic approach.
“I have no problem speaking on this. The Korumburra community has been encouraged to bring this project forward for funding however if you move something forward you have to move something out.
“The reality is that grant funding is crucial to the revitalisation project. The design with VicRoads is absolutely imperative. That’s what has to take place.”
She said the whole project, which could cost up towards $10 million when you add the community hub into it, was too big to simply move forward to 2018-19.
“Let’s keep it where it is, hopefully, but I do believe that if the supermarket project does come forward that there will be a need for a new community centre and council will respond to that.
“This is not a popularity vote. I am a ward councillor and I have spoken to people about moving this forward but it would have a huge impact on the budget.”
She said there was still a lot of planning to go into traffic movement and the like with VicRoads, plus the grant application to be completed.
She said maybe there will be a chance to move it forward when “we get all the ducks in a line for Korumburra but let’s leave it where it is in the planning at the moment and do it properly.”
The community hub project, she said, would naturally be moved forward if there was a need for it with the proposed development of a supermarket.
But Cr McEwen pushed on.
“This is a strategic decision by the council in economic development and we’ve set a high priority in our plan for economic development in our draft plan.”
He claimed that 55 per cent of funding in the budget and forward plan went to Leongatha, until the council dropped the municipal precinct project but still left a lot of investment in Leongatha including up to “$9 million for the hub and Bair Street, $3m for Splash, and $6m for the proposed soccer development
“Moving it to 2018-19 would push some other projects out that I think are dubious. The community has asked for it and I will support it.
Cr Brunt rejected the claims that Korumburra wasn’t doing well out of shire funding, acknowledging that Coal Creek “bleeds” money but also contributes $2.4 million to tourism shire-wide.
She said bringing the revitalisation project, community hub and railway precinct projects forward was ad hoc planning at its worst.
“The community hub will happen when it’s needed, the railway project is a whole separate thing and relies on a lease with VicTrack.”
She also rejected Cr McEwen’s claims of overspending on Leongatha saying the Splash money was mostly government grants and the soccer project would only go ahead if residential development went ahead south of Leongatha.
“I’m here, not only for Korumburra or Strzelecki ward, but for the whole shire and what’s best for the whole shire.
“We are well aware that soccer facilities are lacking. This will go ahead when the development at Leongatha South goes ahead but that could be a long time in the future.”
She said the reality is that the government wanted to put funds into an indoor facilities like Splash which had taught 100s of kids to swim.
“We can cause angst, going out and putting one community against the other but I won’t do that. I’m about what’s best for the community of the whole shire,” she said.
The footpath proposal also got a run but once again the vote was that there be no change made to the budget.