WIMMERA community leaders have highlighted a desperate need for transport funding in Tuesday's state budget.
Northern Grampians councillor Wayne Rice said cuts to rail and road upgrades would have disastrous effects for the region.
“As we look at export markets, food producers require road and rail to get produce to shipping containers,” he said.
“That’s why we have to maintain infrastructure spending.”
Retiring MP Hugh Delahunty, who will hear his last budget as Member for Lowan, echoed councillors’ concerns about road funding.
“The Wimmera Highway and the Henty Highway are predominantly funded by the State Government and that’s where we need money,” he said.
“State roads do need more spent on them and I’m hopeful there will be funding for those roads in the budget.”
He disagreed that Lowan missed out at budget time because it was a safe seat, pointing to projects delivered in the electorate during his 15 years in parliament as well as $10 million for Horsham College, which will be confirmed on Tuesday.
Yarriambiack Mayor Andrew McLean said it was important the State Government continued to fund rural councils.
“We don’t want funding to councils to be diminished at all,” he said.
“It’s hard enough to rake up the money to do what we need as it is.
“I hope that our healthcare services are maintained – they are certainly something we don’t want cut.”
“Pre-school is always a concern.
"If the government does not give us the money then it’s up to parents to work harder to find the money.”
Northern Grampians Mayor Kevin Erwin echoed the concerns of Cr McLean about cuts to childcare, adding that he would not like to see further cuts to TAFE and education.
Cr Erwin said smaller shires were often forgotten at budget time.
“There seems to be money thrown around in Melbourne and bigger centres – we’ve seen it go to Geelong and Ballarat.
“It would be good to go out a little bit broader.
“People do live and exist out here and enjoy a good lifestyle – we’d like to protect that lifestyle.”
Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch said he hoped rural shires would not be forgotten.
“One of the big concerns we have is Melbourne has projects like the East West Link where huge amounts of money go in, but we need a lot of money in rural areas to maintain the thousands of kilometres of roads we have,” he said.
Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president David Jochinke disputed State Government claims that the East West Link project would have major benefits for western Victoria.
“I would find it very hard to believe that would be the case,” he said.
“We think there are other projects that are a lot higher in priority.
“We’ve been saying for a long time if they’re serious about increasing economic benefits to Victoria, the rail freight project is the way to do it.”
He reiterated the federation’s request for a $250-million rail freight upgrade to be funded in the budget.