by Michael Giles
LAST Thursday, April 12, when the Prime Minister came to Gippsland, there was money going out left, right and centre.
But precious little for this part of the world, down here in South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
“Under this package, 1200 new jobs will be created across the electorates of McMillan and Gippsland,” said local MP Russell Broadbent.
“The total $20 million Turnbull government package will support a number of regional communities and ensure their prosperity continues into the future,” he said.
The funding, for 19 projects apparently, provided under the Regional Jobs and Investment Package was announced at Rotary Centenary House, Traralgon.
Among those to receive funding were:
• Drouin West Timber & Truss Pty Ltd;
• Neerim District Soldiers Memorial Hospital;
• South Gippsland Shire Council;
• Baw Baw Shire Council/Warragul Primary School; and
• MTB Inc /Haunted Hills Bike Park
There was also $220 million for a hydrogen project in the Latrobe Valley and $34.43 million for a hydroponic strawberry business at Heyfield.
Mr Broadbent said grants for projects in McMillan totalled just on $4 million. So where’s our share?
The so-called ‘South Gippsland Shire Council’ grant amounted $66,664 towards the cost of the Gippsland Trails and Tracks Feasibility Study, covering six municipalities in Gippsland.
It’s a good initiative but it wasn’t for South Gippsland specifically; the local shire was simply the lead agency for the Gippsland Local Government Network.
So the reality is, we missed out again.
It’s not necessarily the fault of the South Gippsland Shire Council’s administration, which has a very good major projects and grants group. But it can’t help that we have a dysfunctional council here.
There’s also been the situation that until recently Bass Coast has not had the money to match government grant opportunities.
But that shouldn’t stop both councils identifying and encouraging local business to apply for expansion funding, as they have done elsewhere in Gippsland.
For sure, the Latrobe Valley has attracted the governments’ attention since the closure of Hazelwood but it has long been the case that services are located in central Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley that are supposed to cover this area as well. They don’t.
Here’s the response we got from South Gippsland Shire, as provided by Major Projects and Emergency Management Coordinator, Penni Ellicott.
“Once our priority projects are considered ‘shovel ready’ we will be able to submit applications to both the State and Federal Governments.
“However, there aren’t many funding programs available through the Federal Government.
“The Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities provides a range a funding programs but projects need to be eligible and are often directed to specific objectives. The recent announcements by the Prime Minister were projects approved through the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages which provide packages to 10 regions; one of them being the Latrobe Valley.
“The Regional Growth Fund is currently calling for submissions however the minimum request is $10 million on a $1:$1 basis. We don’t have any projects ready for submission by 27 April 2018 that are in access of $20m.
“In this term of Government, I should point out that Council has been approved $1 million for the Bena Kongwak Bridge through the Bridges Renewal Program and approximately $5 million for the Long Jetty Restoration project through the Community Development Grants Program.
“Council is also preparing submissions for additional funding to be made available to assist in delivering projects for regional areas.”
But have our local councils got their eye on the ball, by either applying for all available funds or by identifying and encouraging local business to expand with the support of grants?
And what about the $10 million minimum, Mr Broadbent, and the $1 for $1 requirement effectively cutting us out? And are you doing enough to attract funding to Bass Coast and South Gippsland?
This week the State Premier was back in the local area. When was the last time we had the Prime Minister down here bearing gifts?