Secession push to continue

THE Traralgon Community Development Association has vowed to continue to push for the town to break away from Latrobe City Council, despite a lack of support from the State Government.

Association president Bill McMahon said the group would launch a two-month-long television advertising campaign in order to “let the public decide”.

It last week reignited calls for Traralgon and its surrounding townships to secede from Latrobe on the back of newly-released council data which shows those in the 3844 postcode paid $76 million in rates over the past four years and received $12 million in capital works funding.

The group wants the State Government to enable Traralgon residents to vote on secession, but local government minister Tim Bull said the government had no intention to restructure municipalities in Gippsland.

Mr McMahon said he believed his 160-member group was representative of the broader Traralgon population.

“I’ve had very positive responses from residents in the last few days,” Mr McMahon said.

When asked whether the group had investigated Traralgon’s capacity to support itself financially, without high rates, Mr McMahon said he believed Traralgon was “very capable of running an efficient operation”.

He said there would likely be a “very minor” rates increase to begin with and it would reduce in the medium to long term.

Mr McMahon cited 2002 National Party state election policy, which supported splitting Latrobe City generally down the former Morwell and Traralgon shire boundaries.

An election policy document stated at the time, a ‘West Latrobe’ municipality would have 43,000 people with a rates base of about $18 million and an ‘East Latrobe’ municipality would have 28,000 people and a $13 million rate base, and “both new councils would be of sufficient size and economic base to prosper”.

“If it was viable then, why wouldn’t it be viable now when the population and the rate base have increased?” Mr McMahon said.

He said his group planned to conduct updated costings for the proposal.

At present, the campaign has failed to gain Coalition Government support.

In a written statement to The Express, last week Mr Bull said he was aware of concerns raised by a section of the Traralgon community about the delivery of a fair share of services and infrastructure.

“If the Traralgon community is concerned about their council’s performance in any area, I encourage them to discuss these concerns directly with the council,” Mr Bull said.

“The Victorian Coalition Government is focused on implementing major reforms to improve council governance, performance reporting and enhance the integrity of local government elections.”

The council figures used by the development group refer only to spending on major projects and not the regular services provided by council like road maintenance, libraries, early learning and kerbside garbage collection.