Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, government ministers and advisors will join community and industry leaders in Horsham tonight to explore ways to drive and stimulate the regional economy.
Mr Andrews has confirmed he will attend a booked-out second annual Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Assembly, which starts at 5.30pm at Horsham Town Hall.
The Premier and-or ministers will also use the visit to announce major funding for key agricultural road projects as well as Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal at Dooen.
There was heavy speculation last night the government would also announce money for a networked grains centre of excellence and tourism development projects.
Other ministers attending the assembly include Jaala Pulford, Agriculture and Regional Development, Gavin Jennings, Special Minister of State, and Attorney General Martin Pakula.
Mr Andrews said in a prepared statement: “I am excited to be in the Wimmera southern Mallee to listen to the local community and to make sure we are getting things right for this community.”
The State Government launched the statewide regional partnerships last year to unearth regional potential and directly link priority issues to budgetary decision-making.
Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Assembly deputy chair Emma Vogel said tonight’s assembly would again be about gathering input for and generating further understanding of priority issues and investigating new projects and opportunities.
“Part of the assembly will be dedicated to the validation and revisiting of established priorities, but it will also be about continuing to explore what else is needed or what other opportunities we can identify,” she said.
“I encourage everyone who attends to have their thinking caps on, be prepared to express ideas on how as a region we can shape our future. This is our chance to have a say. We’re after big ideas so nothing is off the radar.”
Wimmera Southern Mallee priorities identified at an inaugural regional assembly last year were: Early years and access to education; secure vibrant community infrastructure, including transport; mobile and digital connectivity; encouraging a diversified economy; grain centre of excellence; best model for tourism development; energy and environment; social welfare, community and health.
Ms Vogel said the government had already responded to exploring the idea of a networked agriculture centre of excellence by providing funding for a business case study.
She added that information had also played a role in statewide funding decisions for regional early years education and kindergartens.
“We expect to gain great insight into developments at the assembly,” she said.
“The regional partnership has also opened dialogue with Telstra with the aim of developing a ‘strategic relationship’ based on the priority of digital connectivity.”
Among announcements today are more than $1.4-million towards the cost of improving agricultural roads, bridges and intersections in the region.
Agriculture and Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said the State Government’s Local Roads to Market Program would allocate money to help in the transfer of produce to the market place.
She said projects included replacing a 96-year-old Albacutya Bridge at Rainbow; upgrading and realigning Feders-collins, Station and K Clarks roads to a Graincorp Lillimur receival site; an upgrade of Dimboola-minyip Road; improved access to Wilken Grain Receival Centre at Warracknabeal; and the sealing of Winfields Road, Laharum.
Ms Vogel stressed the assembly was fully booked but people could contribute to discussions online at engage.vic.gov.au/wimmerasouthern-mallee.
“This program is far from exclusive for the people who attend the assembly. It is designed to be collaborative and everyone can contribute,” she said.