There were no surprises for the Latrobe Valley in the State Budget, with the previously announced $73 million Latrobe Regional Hospital expansion remaining the region’s big ticket item.
Long-awaited funding for the merger of Commercial Road, Crinigan Road and Tobruk Street primary schools was not forthcoming, with the government announcing it would go back to the drawing board and fund new designs for the project.
The ‘super school’ has been earmarked for the former Kurnai College site on McDonald Street, Morwell.
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said a ‘Nightrider’ bus, which takes patrons from Traralgon’s nightclub precinct home to Churchill, Moe and Morwell on weekends, would continue for the next financial year in a bid to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.
Latrobe Valley at a glance:
-$73 million for Latrobe Regional Hospital expansion (previously announced).
-Continuation of the late-night bus from Traralgon’s nightclub precinct to Churchill, Morwell and Moe.
-Funding for planning work of the long-awaited Morwell ‘super school’, which would combine Commercial Road, Crinigan Road and Tobruk Street primary schools.
-$2.4 million for monitoring air and water quality levels at Morwell by the EPA.
-Replacement of Latrobe’s ambulance helicopter, due to be operational by 2016.
-Funding for overtaking lanes on the Strzelecki and Hyland highways (previously announced).
-A multi-disciplinary centre to improve responses to sexual assault (previously announced).
-Free Wi-Fi on VLocity carriages between Traralgon and Melbourne, with rollout beginning in 2015 (previously announced).
-$4 million for a coal development strategy to maximise market opportunities.
Funding has been allocated for the previously-announced overtaking lanes on the Strzelecki and Hyland highways; while the Latrobe Valley’s ambulance helicopter is one of five across the state to be replaced by 2016.
The budget announced an additional $2.4 million for monitoring of air and water quality levels in Morwell by the Environment Protection Authority.
It outlined what the government had spent on community assistance in the wake of the Hazelwood mine fire, including $3.7 million for hardship and relocation grants, $2 million for clean-up, and $1.3 million for the temporary relocation of students and pre-schoolers affected by smoke. Further mine fire expenditure included a business relief fund of $2.1 million and low-interest concessional loans of up to $100,000 for primary producers, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations, along with the mine fire inquiry which will cost $5 million over two years.
The budget also included $2.2 million to stimulate economic activity in bushfire-affected communities through ‘buy-local’ campaigns and fast-tracking development projects.
It is currently unclear whether a number of broad funding initiatives for regional areas will benefit the Latrobe Valley specifically.
These include: $29 million for 78 vehicles for CFA brigades; $730 million for regional roads; an additional $14 million to increase visitor numbers to regional Victoria; $34 million over four years to expand drug and alcohol treatment services in areas including Gippsland; and $150,000 to hold small events in fire-affected communities to help build resilience.
The budget also includes $4 million for exploring opportunities to develop the state’s unallocated coal resource, including further testing for market interest.
Commuters will have access to free Wi-Fi on VLocity carriages between Traralgon and Melbourne, with rollout beginning in 2015, as announced earlier this year.
Mr Northe said a previously announced Multi-Disciplinary Centre to improve responses to sexual assault would go ahead this year.
Regional areas at a glance:
-$29 million for 78 vehicles for CFA brigades.
-$730 million for regional roads.
-Additional $14 million to increase visitor numbers to regional Victoria;
-$34 million over four years to expand drug and alcohol treatment services in areas including Gippsland
-Additional $13.8 million for the Patient Transport Assistance Scheme.
-Additional $9.2 million to extend the Rural Council Planning Flying Squad to address the backlog of planning work.
$150,000 to hold small events in fire-affected communities to help build resilience.
$2.2 million to stimulate economic activity in bushfire-affected communities.
$97.7 million over four years for mental health.
He said there had been a delay in finding an appropriate location for the facility – which would combine police, the Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault and government agencies – and he understood approval for land and construction would occur in the “near future”.
Latrobe Acting Inspector Dean Thomas welcomed the move.
“It’s definitely going to improve the response to sexual assault and the liaison between all the relevant agencies because they’ll be under the one roof,” he said.
Act Insp Thomas also welcomed the late-night bus funding.
“It’s a positive for the entertainment area because it will help the young ones get out of Traralgon and get home in a timely manner.”
Latrobe Regional Hospital chair Kellie O’Callaghan re-iterated the hospital’s excitement about the expansion.
“The project itself will address some key health issues in Gippsland, in particular, poorer health outcomes,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“Being able to ensure we’ve got facilities and infrastructure for Gippsland is the best possible outcome.”
The expansion will include two new two-storey buildings including a 29-bed emergency department, 12-bed short stay unit, cardiac catheterisation laboratory, two day rooms for endoscopy procedures, an acute ward with 30 beds and satellite imaging service. Construction is expected to take up to five years.
Committee for Gippsland chair Mary Aldred welcomed investments in rail and road, and projects across the region.
“Most significantly, there is funding of nearly $32 million for the Sand Road interchange at Longwarry, and funding to support the Federal Government’s contribution to the Leongatha Heavy Vehicle Bypass,” Ms Aldred said.