The Victorian Coalition Government’s 2011-12 Victorian Budget will help build a better future in regional and rural Victoria by fixing deteriorating country roads and infrastructure, assisting flood-affected communities, upgrading regional health services and boosting local job and business opportunities.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the Coalition Government’s Budget was delivering on the Coalition’s commitments to provide greater prosperity, new opportunities and a better quality of life in regional and rural Victoria.
“Despite tough financial circumstances, the Coalition Government is meeting the needs of regional and rural Victoria by supporting local councils, businesses and communities in our first year of government,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said the Budget was being delivered at a time when $2.5 billion reduction in Victoria’s share of GST revenue plus a further $1.6 billion through slower national consumption combines to see Victoria’s total GST revenue reduced by $4.1 billion over the four years to 2014-15.
“Even in these challenging times, regional projects and programs across the state will receive massive funding in the 2011-12 State Budget,” Mr Ryan said.
Budget highlights for regional and rural Victoria include:
- $1 billion Regional Growth Fund available from July 1, 2011;
- $259 million to upgrade regional health services;
- $16 million to provide extra ambulance stations and $151 million to hire 340 new ambulance officers;
- $160 million over four years for country roads and bridges;
- $140 million on regional highway upgrades;
- $20 million over four years for a Regional Aviation Fund;
- $1.2 million to extend the First Farm Grant;
- Young farmers stamp duty extension;
- $3.5 million to help address a recent decline in regional tourism;
- $602 million to recruit 1,700 more frontline police and $212 million for 940 PSOs;
- $30 million to build and upgrade police stations around Victoria; and
- $65.8 million to upgrade and build more than 60 CFA stations and roll-out 101 new firefighting vehicles in the next 12 months.
Mr Ryan said Victoria’s flood crisis had affected 20 per cent of the state and the 83 flood- affected towns would continue to be supported in the Budget.
“Many farmers were crippled by more than a decade of drought, only to be further affected by repeated floods over the past six months,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Coalition Government has allocated funding in this year’s Budget to repair flood- damaged roads, bridges and other assets and we will continue to support flood-affected communities recover and rebuild, as well as prepare for any future natural disasters.”
Mr Ryan said a centerpiece of the Budget was the Coalition’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund which underpinned the government’s commitment to encourage growth and create more jobs and investment opportunities in regional Victoria. The funds first allocation of $500 million will be made over the next four years.
“The Regional Growth Fund which is being allocated over eight years and will be available from July 1, will ensure grass-roots communities have more money and greater input for local priority projects than ever before,” Mr Ryan said.
“An unprecedented amount of money is being made available to create jobs, build and upgrade local services and infrastructure, and invest in local skills and industries.”
The $1 billion Regional Growth Fund includes the following programs:
- The $100 million Energy for the Regions natural gas extension project, which will fast- track the delivery of natural gas to regional Victoria to drive new investment opportunities;
- The $100 million Local Government Infrastructure Program, which will address the infrastructure backlog that has developed during the past 11 years by supporting local council initiatives including roads projects, bridges and new community assets; and
- The $100 million Putting Locals First Fund which will help local communities by filling the gaps where government funding has previously failed to provide the necessary services, facilities and support for jobs and economic development.
“The Regional Growth Fund supplements, not replaces, existing government services which means core support will continue,” Mr Ryan said.
“An additional $160 million will be available in the Budget to improve our deteriorating country roads and bridges and ensure 40 rural councils are eligible for funding of up to $1 million a year over four years. Regional communities will also benefit from $601 million to fund key road projects across the state.
“Providing quality health services remains a priority of the Coalition Government and the Budget delivers on our commitment to upgrade and rebuild local hospitals around Victoria to provide better health care to our communities outside Melbourne,” Mr Ryan said.
“Funding is available in the budget for Bendigo and Geelong hospitals while smaller country hospitals receiving a funding boost in the Budget include Ballan, Echuca, Kerang, Mildura and Warragul Hospitals.”
Mr Ryan said the Coalition was also investing in the future of Victoria’s farming sector by delivering on the government’s commitment to slash stamp duty for young farmers under the age of 35 on the first $300,000 worth of agricultural land purchased,” Mr Ryan said.
“Regional first homebuyers will also receive $19,500 State Government support in this Budget towards buying or building a home under the Coalition’s extension of the First Homebuyers Grant.
“The popular fox and wild dog bounty will be reintroduced by the Coalition at a cost of $4 million over the next four years.
“The Coalition will continue to investigate stormwater recycling options in Melbourne and funding is being made available to improve water security in the north-east through investigating an expansion of either Lake Buffalo or Lake William Hovell. A further $1 million has been set aside for Stage 1 of the East Gippsland Water Security Project.”
“All regional communities stand to benefit from the Coalition’s policy to resource Victoria Police to recruit 1,700 police statewide over four years.
“$30 million will be delivered over the next three years for new and upgraded regional police station upgrades at North Ballarat, Sebastopol, Mooroopna, Heywood, and Paynesville.”
Mr Ryan said a number of regional sporting initiatives were also being funded under this year’s State Budget with $13 million over four years allocated to increase local sporting participation and $1.6 million over four years for the VICSWIM Summer Kidz learn-to swim holiday program.
“As well, $800,000 over four years has been allocated for the Active Sports Partnership program to encourage participation by senior Victorians and Victorians with a disability. A further $$1.8 million will be available over four years to support volunteers and coaches involved in community sporting clubs.”
“The famous Stawell Gift has also received a Coalition Government lifeline of $530,000 over four years to ensure this popular foot race can continue into the future.”
Mr Ryan said the Budget was delivering on the Coalition Government’s pledge to provide a better future for regional Victorians by supporting local communities and fixing the problems left behind by Labor.
“In challenging times, the Coalition Government is delivering on our election commitments in regional Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.