With a state election locked in for November 24, it is hoped that all political parties will seriously address issues facing north-west Victoria. Our distance from Melbourne and the fast-growing regional cities of Geelong and Ballarat is one of the major obstacles we face in attracting new residents and business investment.
The road networks in our part of Victoria need a lot of maintenance to bring them up to standard. Our councillors had a community forum at Beulah last week and were shocked to see numerous potholes across both sides of the Henty Highway between Brim and Beulah. VicRoads has been notified but is yet to take action. Complete re-sheeting of that section would last a lot longer than filling potholes with hot mix. There is plenty of traffic along that section, particularly caravanners visiting the silo art sites at Brim and Rosebery. We believe this part of the highway represents a road safety issue that requires immediate attention.
Passenger rail along to Horsham and Hamilton is another way closer links can be with made with Melbourne. Not all of our 100,000 residents are able to drive to the city. Upgrading the western rail network to cater for passenger trains would go a long way to making our region an attractive place to live and an easier place for tourists to access. When we hear the proposed rail connections around Melbourne are going to cost $50 billion, the price of under $400 million to bring passenger rail back to western Victoria seems a real bargain.
We’ve still received no committment to stage 2 of the education precinct at Warracknabeal. In less than five months, the Education Department expects SDS and secondary school students to have lessons in facilities that are half-finished. This must be rectified as soon as possible.
We support West Wimmera council in requesting that state and federal governments provide ongoing funding for a rural mental health outreach position in our region. This will help support people dealing with tough times. Again, the cost is miniscule compared with the benefits it will bring.
Our regional partnership has been given $1 million for Pick My Projects. Yarriambiack Shire has 17 projects competing for a share of that funding. We would love at least a couple to be successful. I urge residents to make sure they register and vote before 5pm on Monday, September 17.
Cr Graeme Massey is mayor of Yarriambiack Shire Council.