THE Bass Coast Shire Council is pushing the State Government to inject tens of millions of dollars into the region for a better public school, improved transport, a 24/7 pharmacy at Cowes and a new emergency department at the Wonthaggi Hospital.
For the first time, council will be bringing a list of eight priority projects to the State Government for next year’s Victorian Budget.
They include a $25 million upgrade of Wonthaggi Secondary College, a $6 million Wonthaggi Highball Stadium, a $4.5 million Cowes Jetty replacement and a $30 million upgrade to the Wonthaggi Hospital.
In total, council is seeking $87.3 million in funding in next year’s State Budget, as well as funding for a 24/7 pharmacy on Phillip Island.
Councillors aren’t expecting to get it all funded but are keen to show all political parties what’s on their agenda, providing hints for election promises in the lead up to the 2018 State Election.
Council’s focussing on Wonthaggi, keen to see it developed into a ‘Regional Centre’ as it’s the main source of jobs in the region.
A report by council officers into Wonthaggi says decades of “under investment in the town are preventing Wonthaggi from functioning as a true regional centre”.
Challenges for the town include poor standard educational facilities, a hospital that’s below sub-regional status, minimal art and culture facilities, and poor public transport.
Council says a successful Wonthaggi would be one with world-class educational facilities and health care, and an arts and culture precinct.
At a meeting on Wednesday, councillors unanimously voted in favour of including the priority projects in a submission for funding to the 2018 State Budget.
Cr Michael Whelan also pushed through an amendment to the Advocacy Strategy to include a 24/7 pharmacy in Cowes.
“This is a once in a four year opportunity, a council only gets one crack at this with a State Government,” he said.
“We always advocate but to be able to advocate to all the parties that might form government is a particularly important function, I think, that we can play.”
He said it was a strong list and he boasted about supporting Cr Clare Le Serve when she ran as an independent candidate for the seat of Bass.
She went up against Brian Paynter and was the third most popular candidate, with around 4200 votes, compared to elected MP Brian Paynter’s more than 18,000 votes.
“We pushed a number of these issues at that time,” Cr Whelan said.
“Regrettably, they’re still there to be pushed.
“But we certainly had commitments out of one of the major parties, that wasn’t the party that formed government.”
He said there is a “very strong” chance the shire’s only public school would be funded because of the excellent work in the community advocating for an upgrade.
“The other initiatives are very strong initiatives, they stand on their own, but we need to really stand up and bang the drum on them,” he added.
“I think as the election approaches, I would like to see that we actually publish what the candidates are and their parties are prepared to provide in the Bass Coast.”
He said the shire’s only received the basic infrastructure required.
“It’s time to bang the drum and say ‘No, we expect better’.”
Cr Julian Brown said the feedback from residents was that they wanted council to push for issues that State and Federal Governments have the “main say” over.
He said there were projects in all three wards and for financing the Wonthaggi Highball Stadium, “we now have our ducks in a row”.
Cr Clare Le Serve said it was important to keep up the political heat coming up to next year’s State Election.
“I think that looking at the list, surely there is a lot of other things we could advocate for, but a lot of these are regional facilities – regional to Bass Coast.
“They’re very critical to the liveability of Bass Coast into the future and I think we should be putting political parties on notice, frankly.”
Cr Geoff Ellis said the new Wonthaggi Secondary College campus was “badly needed”, adding that it should already be under construction.
“And it shouldn’t become a piece of election bait, it should already be in the process now.”
Cr Les Larke, although speaking after discussion on the motion concluded, noted council was working with the Bass Coast Health Board, Chair Don Paproth and CEO Jan Child to support their applications for improved health services across the shire.
The leading faces of the Wonthaggi Secondary College upgrade petition will present it to local MPs next month.
On Tuesday, October 17, acting principal Darren Parker, School Council president Geoff Robertson, Wonthaggi Business and Tourism Association secretary Terry Earl, Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield and other members of the School Council will hand the petition over to Parliament.
At 3pm, the petition will be received by Eastern Victoria MP Harriet Shing and Bass MP Brian Paynter.
“The school’s trying to stay out of the political side, but we just want it done,” said Mr Earl.
It’s expected if there will be a funding announcement, this will be the place to do it.
“We’re not sure what the response will be, but we’re hoping for a good response,” Mr Earl said.
“It’s a good start. We’ve been waiting for so long, so who knows?
“We’d like some sort of a solid commitment.”
All are welcome to come to Melbourne to show their support for Wonthaggi.