Recently I have attended functions, meetings and announcements that addressed important needs for our region. Some will bring immediate benefit; others will unfortunately be conveyed to the pot labelled “to be considered when finance is available”.
So it was most pleasing that Premier Dan Andrews and five of his ministers made funding announcements during their visit to the 2017 Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Assembly at Horsham on August 2.
Additional finance will see the expansion of the Wimmera Intermodel Freight Terminal facility at Dooen, upgrading of five sites under the Local Roads to Market Program, a business case for a Networked Grain Centre of Excellence and a co-ordinated strategy to create a plan that would promote the tourist potential of the Wimmera Mallee.
More than 200 people attended the Regional Assembly last Wednesday evening. Priorities from last year were reviewed and formed the basis of this year’s discussion.
Our geographic remoteness is still the largest obstacle to overcome and it was no surprise that the discussion groups focused on better connectivity as a necessity for the region’s viability - improved public transport, safer, smoother roads and reliable mobile and internet service.
Wimmera Mallee Tourism has been challenged to develop a plan to boost tourism and capitalise on visitors coming to the Grampians and the Wimmera Mallee to view the Silo Art Trail. The premier intimated that this could mean an additional dozen silos, extending the trail to the shires of Buloke, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera. It will be an exciting time for our smaller communities as they mount a case for their silo to be included.
One of the priority areas at last week’s Regional Assembly was the sustainability of small towns in rural shires. Maintaining infrastructure and providing services to these communities is an important consideration in the council’s annual budget. State and federal government grants are the main way these communities finance their needs.
I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Woomelang’s new shopping precinct and Anzac Park’s new netball changerooms. Both facilities would not have been possible without funding from the state government. It is no wonder that high on our wish list is how can rural shires can get more state and federal dollars.