Wimmera people have nominated their most important issues in the lead-up to this year’s state election.
A Fairfax Media survey in June and July gave residents across the region the chance to share their top priorities.
The survey comprised a series of yes-no questions, a slider allowing respondents to rank how important an issue was to them, and an opportunity for people to provide their own answers.
Roads, health, education and public transport were the top-ranking issues among the 363 Wimmera people who responded to the survey.
More than 350 respondents said roads were either “Important” or “Very important”, yet more than three quarters of these people believed Wimmera roads were not safe or in a suitable condition.
More than 87 per cent of people believed health professionals should be provided with greater incentives to work in the Wimmera, while about 78 per cent said public hospitals did not receive enough funding to deliver the right level of care.
Mental health was also highlighted by many respondents as an area of concern, with many stating the area was underfunded.
Public transport was also high on the priority list.
Two thirds of respondents disagreed with the statement that existing public transport links to Melbourne made it attractive for them to continue living in the Wimmera.
On issues relating to education, respondents were split on whether governments should provide funding for private schools.
However more than three quarters of people who responded believed public schools needed more funding to improve students’ results. More than 85 per cent believed employers in the region should receive financial incentives to recruit and retain Wimmera secondary school leavers.
Respondents also wanted to see more wind farms and solar farms supported in our community.
More than 80 per cent of respondents believed legislation should be introduced to force councils to spend two-thirds of income on programs and facilities that directly benefit ratepayers.
COMMUNITY LEADERS STATE THEIR POSITIONS
Hindmarsh mayor Ron Ismay said roads were one of the shire’s biggest issues.
“We have more roads than we can afford to manage,” he said. “The edges of the roads are really bad, and I can see major accidents coming from the potholes.”
He said decentralisation and incentives to help fill skilled positions were also needed.
“We need to get some skilled people out of the cities and into rural areas,” he said. “Some people are critical of overseas-trained doctors. But in a medical situation, a doctor of any sort is better than not having anyone.”
Horsham mayor Pam Clarke said the council was lobbying the Labor party to commit $4 million for a passenger rail business case, which the Coalition has committed to.
“We’ve also been lobbying hard to get a family violence centre in Horsham,” she said.
“They are placing one in Warrnambool, but we are strategically placed to service the whole of western Victoria. We also need to lobby for more secure roads and bridges funding, and a long-term commitment to fund 15 hours of kindergarten a week.”
West Wimmera Shire mayor Jodie Pretlove said maintaining the shire’s road network was always high on the agenda, as was continued funding for mental health outreach programs.
“We’ve also been lobbying for a reticulated sewerage system for Goroke, water security to the southern part of our shire, and improving digital connectivity,” she said.
Among Ararat Rural City Council’s priority projects are road renewals; an Ararat bypass; new opportunities for Aradale; copper and gold exploration; and sporting upgrades.
Council hopes to redevelop the Gordon Street Oval to create an inclusive and sustainable multi-purpose facility, and complete stage two of the Alexandra Oval upgrade.
Stage two would involve updating key facilities to ensure they cater to all users, and give groups the opportunity to host large events at the oval.
Council also wants to develop the Ararat Hills Mountain Bike Trail, and complete access improvements at Ararat Fitness Centre.
Northern Grampians Shire mayor Tony Driscoll said upgrading changeroom amenities at St Arnaud’s Lord Nelson Park and the Western Highway duplication were priority projects.
“We are very keen for that to still progress of course,” he said.
“Public transport is also a big-ticket item for us – including connectivity to Halls Gap – and we are still advocating for more funding for Halls Gap and the Grampians Peaks Trail.
“We are trying to revitalise the small businesses in our communities, because they are critical.
“We need funding to nurture and maintain the ones we have, and encourage new ones to come to our region.
“Continued funding around early years services is critical as well.”
Yarriambiack Shire mayor Graeme Massey said money to complete stage two of the Warracknabeal education precinct was at the top of council’s list.
“We would also like to see more money being given to VicRoads for the Roads to Markets project,” he said.
“Fixing up the recycling would be a good move too.
“Obviously fixing the rating problem would be great. We're happy to support the capping system, but there needs to be some changes made to make it more fair.
“Public transport and getting passenger rail to Mildura and Horsham would be of benefit to our community. It's not at the top of the list, but we're very supportive.”