Bass Coast win is South Gippsland loss
SOUTH Gippsland is missing out on the millions of dollars the State Government is splashing in Bass Coast Shire in a bid to win the state seat of Bass.
More than $140 million worth of projects and election promises have been made for Wonthaggi, Inverloch and Phillip Island, while the major centres of South Gippsland miss out, as Labor seeks to wrest the seat from the Liberals’ Brian Paynter.
The government has so far guaranteed $115 million to expand Wonthaggi Hospital, and also promised $500,000 for a new pavilion and upgraded netball courts at Inverloch, $24.7 million for a new junior secondary college servicing Phillip Island and San Remo, and $594,000 for Chisholm Institute Bass Coast campus at Wonthaggi to deliver four courses.
Yet the South Gippsland community is still waiting for government funding to re-develop Bair Street and the rail yards in Leongatha.
South Gippsland Shire Council’s major projects coordinator Penni Ellicott said council is disappointed that external funding for the Leongatha Business Precinct Redevelopment – which includes Bair Street and stage one of the railway station upgrade – has not been secured.
The Nationals’ Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said, “Labor has not promised any single thing for Gippsland South so far.”
Only recently did Labor announce a candidate for Gippsland South – Denison farmer Denise Ryan – just six weeks out from the state election on Saturday, November 24.
Mr O’Brien said The Nationals had committed more than $40 million to Gippsland South should the Coalition win the election.
None of that is for Leongatha, with $6 million allocated to a rebuild at Korumburra Secondary College, $2.5 million to rebuild Foster Primary School, $25 million earmarked for a new TAFE campus for Sale, more than $7 million for new fire stations at Mirboo North, Foster and Yarram, $200,000 for upgrades at Agnes Falls near Toora, and $1.8 million for a predator proof fence at Wilsons Promontory National Park.
South Gippsland Shire Council will also receive $4 million for roadworks under the Coalition’s Country Roads and Bridges Program.
However Mr O’Brien said the community could expect more announcements between now and the election.
Asked if that would include Bair Street and the Leongatha rail yards, he remained non-committal.
“It’s an important project. It’s certainly something the business community is keen to see finalised but there are many worthwhile projects around South Gippsland that are chasing funding,” he said.
As for the amount of money the government is throwing at the seat of Bass, Mr O’Brien said, “Labor is just interested in winning government. It’s not really interested in governing for the whole state and you can see that by where it’s focusing its attention.”
The rail yards component of stage one of the Leongatha Business Precinct Redevelopment includes car parking, a pedestrian bridge to Bair Street, open space and landscaping.
Leongatha mother Tenielle Bentley is hoping for an all abilities playground in the Leongatha rail yards. Council has allocated an area in the masterplan for a playground, with a specific design to be done later.
“How long does it take to get funding? It’s like any funding. They (council) do not have Bair Street funded yet,” she said.
Mrs Bentley is a member of council’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee, president of the South Gippsland Specialist School council, Leongatha, and a member of the school’s parents and friends committee.
Her son Jaylen, 8, attends the school and uses a walking frame.
She hopes the new playground includes play equipment for children in wheelchairs to use. There are few slides in Leongatha Jaylen is able to access.
Mrs Bentley said such suitable equipment could include slides, a wheelchair swing, bridges with railings and games.
“There are so many different options they could go with,” she said, adding the park could have a theme similar to the ‘sea and country’ theme of the all abilities playground at Bairnsdale.
“The playground could be a tourism attraction as well, especially with a wheelchair swing as it’s just nice for kids in wheelchairs,” Mrs Bentley said.
She said the location of the playground could be impacted by the gradient of a bridge to be built over the Strzelecki Highway to allow users of the Great Southern Rail Trail to cross the highway safely.
A traffic school, as proposed by the community, seems unlikely for the rail yards.
“The draft masterplan includes an area that could be used for bicycle education but council is not planning to develop a formal traffic school on the site,” Ms Ellicott said.
“The space available for bicycle education and playground will be reconsidered when the designs for linking the Great Southern Rail Trail from the station site across Roughead Street are completed as these works may reduce the space available for open space at the station site.”
Council expects to soon receive finalised lease documents for the rail yards site from VicTrack, the government agency responsible for the rail yards.
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