Rural Councils Victoria welcomes $970 million rural and regional infrastructure fund from Port of Melbourne lease

The Port of Melbourne, which has been leased for $9.7 billion. Picture: JESSICA SHAPIRO

The Port of Melbourne, which has been leased for $9.7 billion. Picture: JESSICA SHAPIRO

MEMBER for Lowan Emma Kealy believes the state government no longer has any excuse to leave rural roads unfixed after signing a $9.7-billion deal for the Port of Melbourne.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Monday that a contract had been signed with a consortium to lease the port for 50 years.

The deal includes a 10 per cent allocation to rural and regional infrastructure, which would come to $970 million.

Mr Andrews said the deal would benefit regional Victoria.

“We promised that we would lease the Port of Melbourne, while ensuring our regional and rural communities get the support and funding they need to prosper and that’s exactly what we are doing,” he said.

“We are putting people first with dedicated funding from the lease going to regional and rural Victoria, helping to create jobs and ensure our state stays number one for food and fibre.”

Ms Kealy said the National Party deserved credit for negotiating in parliament to lift the rural and regional infrastructure share from a flat $200 million to a ten per cent cut.

“This will be a real shot in the arm for our roads,” she said.

Hindmarsh councillor Rob Gersch, speaking as Rural Councils Victoria chairman, said the group was pleased with the money for regional infrastructure.

“We hope to work together and see that the fund benefits rural and regional communities, we hope money is allocated to rural and regional areas not metro areas,” he said. 

“Sometimes it seems to get mixed up with the outskirts of Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

“We'd like to see small rural and regional councils benefit.” 

Ms Kealy said the opposition would monitor the deal to avoid repeating a standoff with the government over previous budget allocations being used to fill the quota of spending on rural roads.

Ms Kealy said she had been briefed that insurance would pay for this month’s flood damage to VicRoads managed roads so the port lease money should go to new infrastructure.

On Tuesday the state and federal governments were locked in a disagreement over the port deal’s eligibility for a bonus payment from a Commonwealth asset sale and infrastructure reinvestment policy.

The state government expected a further $1.45 billion for port lease deal under the federal government's public asset recycling scheme that offers payments equivalent to 15 per cent of the sale.

But Treasurer Scott Morrison's office said Victoria would get only nine per cent, claiming Victoria had failed to finalise a deal by June 30.

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