Proposed rail and road overhaul

As increasing amounts of Melbourne residents opt for a rural tree-change, Latrobe City representatives are urging the State Government to invest more in regional cities to cater for expected population growth.

Ten major regional centre representatives including Latrobe City chief executive Paul Buckley and Mayor Ed Vermeulen recently attended a three-day conference with the State Government and opposition leaders in Melbourne to discuss regional cities’ involvement in addressing Victoria’s population growth challenges.

During discussion of a Regional Cities Growth Strategy, Cr Vermeulen encouraged Transport Minister Terry Mulder to invest in a rail and road overhaul of Gippsland.

“I stressed the importance of rail and road infrastructure,” Cr Vermeulen said.

“The rail infrastructure is obviously going to be a huge commitment from the State Government and this time Terry Mulder was interested in what we had to say.”

The proposal of a commercial rail “spurline” from central east Victoria to the coast was put to Mr Mulder, which Cr Vermeulen said would cater for international business opportunities and infrastructure requirements.

“This will have huge implications for Gippsland all over; any commercial or industrial attracted investor will need some kind of ability to freight products out and that of course needs to be married into the existing road freight options,” he said.

“The importance of that spurline to the Port of Hastings is obvious, now I am sure the government realises this, it is just a question of continuing to lobby for that to occur.”

Cr Vermeulen said potential business opportunities were being marred by the need for improved transport infrastructure.

“The importance of rail connections cannot be over-emphasised; it is extremely important for our future,” he said.

The State Government anticipates regional cities will secure 25 per cent of Victoria’s population between 2011 to 2031, equating to an extra 208,070 people.

During the forums, Premier Ted Baillieu announced $300,000 in funding for the Regional City Growth Strategy project which aims to enable RCV to develop a strategic model for growth in the 10 major regional centres which will focus on the delivery of infrastructure over the next 25 years.

Regional Cities Minister Denis Napthine said regional Victoria accounted for about a quarter of the state’s economic output, worth about $71 billion annually.

“Victoria’s regional cities were developed historically as key parts of our early economy, from the gold rush to agriculture and industrial resource hubs, and they continue to support growth, especially with primary transport and financial links to Melbourne,” Dr Napthine said.