One Gippsland to lobby for local investment

AN intensive pre-election lobby effort aimed at securing investment for Gippsland is underway in Canberra this week.

Gippsland’s “peak advocacy group”, One Gippsland, will implore high level federal ministers, shadow ministers and bureaucrats to consider funding five key infrastructure projects it believes will contribute to economic prosperity across the region.

Meetings were held yesterday and will continue for the remainder of the week between One Gippsland representatives councillor Dick Ellis, who is the Gippsland Local Government Network chair, Committee for Gippsland chair Harry Rijs and Regional Development Australia Gippsland chair Richard Elkington.

Speaking to The Express before the local delegation left for Canberra, Mr Elkington said they would push policy makers to consider supporting the completion of the Princes Highway duplication between Traralgon and Sale, funding a Latrobe Regional Hospital redevelopment and choosing East Sale as the preferred location for a proposed flight training system defence project, AIR5428.

Also high on the agenda would be recommendations the Federal Government contribute to funding the East-West Link and North-East Link road networks, proposed road connections which would provide direct freeway access from Gippsland to the Hume Freeway and the Port of Melbourne, Mr Elkington said.

Mr Elkington said the roads, recognised by the State Government as critical infrastructure for Victoria, would provide Gippsland with a “more direct route to market”.

“If we are (increasing production of) agricultural products here, which is a big part of the Gippsland Regional Plan – and coal derivatives – we need to get them to a port, a distribution centre, an airport…and the quicker we can do that, the more effective we can be and the lower our costs will be,” he said.

Mr Elkington said the road projects were also recognised as priorities by Regional Development Australia and the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Cr Ellis said the establishment of One Gippsland represented a “significant turning point for our region,” adding “never before have all levels of government come together with the region’s peak private sector membership group to form one voice”.

This week’s schedule includes meetings with members of the offices of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott as well as Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Simon Crean, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Tourism, Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.