Transport, energy, schools and hospitals are atop South West Coast MP Roma Britnell’s State Budget Wish list for 2017.
Mrs Britnell highlighted a new Warrnambool Special Developmental School, the Warrnambool Base Hospital redevelopment, improved road and rail links and a new source of cheap and reliable energy for the Portland Aluminium smelter as priorities she would like funded in the budget, to be handed down on May 2.
“These are key projects in the area. If we have good schools, good hospitals and great transport links. It encourages people to consider leaving the congestion in the city and moving to regional areas,” she said.
“The special developmental school has outgrown its current site. It’s on the top of a hill with sloping access which makes it difficult for children in wheelchairs.
“A block of land has been purchased, the planning is done; now the government needs to finish the job and allocate enough money to build the new school to department specifications.”
Mrs Britnell said the upgrade of the Warrnambool Base Hospital’s emergency department and operating theatres was another vital project for the entire region.
“The figures prove the emergency department and operating theatres are getting busier. This is the largest hospital in the region and these two vital departments have the same capacity they did 30 years ago,” Mrs Britnell said.
“The state government must match the Liberal Party’s commitment to fully fund the redevelopment so work can get started as soon as possible. The community has been calling for this for a long time, we know what needs to be done and it simply needs to happen.”
Mrs Britnell would also like to see the government increase funding for rural and regional roads and a significant investment in the Melbourne to Warrnambool rail line.
“We have the worst rail line in the state in terms of punctuality – it needs to be addressed now before things deteriorate further, then we need to be looking at improving the service, delivering something better than what we had before these issues.” she said.
“An upgrade of the Portland to Maroona rail line also needs to be fully funded to ensure a direct rail link between grain growing regions in the north of the state and the port.
“The Port of Portland offers deeper water than Geelong or Melbourne, meaning ships can be fully loaded in one hit rather than having to be topped off at a second port,” she said.
“This project would create a level playing field and boost Portland’s economy. The line needs to be upgraded so it can carry larger loads at faster speeds, providing greater efficiency for growers making Portland competitive.
“Roads are a no brainer – they need improvement, anyone can see that. More money needs to be allocated to ensure they are safe for motorists, and allow efficient transport of produce to markets. The region’s economy depends on it.”
Mrs Britnell said the Government also needed to make money available to explore cheap baseload power for Portland Aluminium to ensure it can continue to operate beyond the latest supply deal.
“It’s critically important that the smelter has access to cheap and reliable power, we’ve seen what happens when that isn’t available and came close to suffering the consequences,” she said.
“We also need programs that encourage workforce diversification, to grow our region and ensure people remain in work.
“Part of that is funding an upgrade of energy supply infrastructure around the Tyrendarra area, delivering three phase power to farms and businesses. There are businesses ready and willing to grow and employ more people, but they are being held back by antiquated infrastructure.”
Mrs Britnell said increased support for local police, funding for schools to improve their facilities, funding for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and greater support for regional tourism projects to encourage people beyond the Twelve Apostles were also on her wish list.
“Budj Bim is a brilliant natural asset that will attract people from around the globe- the story of our nation’s first peoples is incredible and needs to be told far and wide, there is an extraordinary opportunity to promote this special place as a must see tourism destination,” she said.