by Michael Giles

THE Gippsland Regional Assembly, held for the first time at Wonthaggi last Thursday, was an intensely political and highly-manicured event.
Which is hardly surprising since it is an initiative of the Andrews Labor Government, designed not only to generate project and program ideas from the ground up but also to be massaged in such a way that it supports union objectives and the government’s own agenda.
That was clear from the way a priority for ‘a Regional Carbon Innovation Centre’ surprisingly came to the top as one of the three most wanted infrastructure needs of the assembly.
I mean really, a Regional Carbon Innovation Centre?
But the other two items to come to the top were Education and Connectivity, principally the state of public transport in Gippsland generally and in South Gippsland and Bass Coast specifically.
And on that score, the comment of the night from the floor was that “Gippsland is more than a spine”.
In other words, concentrating project and program funding along the Princes Highway will not get the job done.
In fact, the terrible state of public transport in Bass Coast and South Gippsland came close to derailing the whole night.
No one is under any illusions that returning rail services to this part of the region would come at a huge cost but it might be attempted in small stages, in small steps out from Cranbourne, so that it serves the burgeoning communities in that area.
But, if the government really wants to avoid the situation where Melbourne is a city of 20 million people in 50 years’ time, they need to start establishing a green ring/green wedges to protect high-value agricultural land and by supporting satellite cities, one of which could be Wonthaggi.
Without a high-functioning public transport system, though, all other aspects of the economy from education aspiration to health care will drag their feet.
It was great to see all those State Government Ministers here, and to give him his due, Premier Andrews has some serious runs on the board locally but it’s time he tackled the thorny issue of public transport in Bass Coast and South Gippsland.