Partnership puts region forward
Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership chairman DAVID JOCHINKE has used the approach of the new year to reflect on what formation of the partnership has led to and what it promises in the future. Mr Jochinke, also Victorian Farmers Federation president, is confident the partnership and the two regional assemblies that have occurred as part of the State Government-driven concept, has potential to generate growth in the region. He has provided his thoughts in an opinion piece. n just over a year since its formation, the impact of the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership is starting to gain pace.
All credit must go to people who gave up their time to attend the annual regional assemblies.
It is the expertise and insight of the 140 and 200 individuals who attended in 2016 and 2017 respectively that has made the difference.
These people came to the table to discuss the region’s biggest challenges openly and honestly, and share their ideas and solutions.
From these discussions, the partnership has been able to get innovative projects started and funded through the State Government.
It’s important to keep everyone in the region up to date on what has been achieved.
Last year, following our assembly, I spoke to the government about the need to secure vital community infrastructure, economically diversify through the creation of a networked grains centre of excellence and a vibrant tourism industry, improve mobile and digital connectivity and reform early childhood development in our region.
The 2017-18 budget delivered for us on several fronts with, for example, $250,000 to develop a business case for a Networked Grains Centre of Excellence in Horsham and $500,000 to develop a tourism plan to boost visitors and diversify the economy.
On top of that, there was $45-million towards improving digital technology and infrastructure across regional Victoria through the Connecting Regional Communities program and $556-million for rural roads across Victoria, including $260-million for repair and maintenance and $25-million for the Local Roads to Market Program to improve roads for agriculture.
There was also $39-million for stage-two upgrades of the Ballarat passenger rail as part of the Regional Rail Revival package, which will see an additional nine services a week between Ararat and Ballarat; and $1-million across the state to develop a local government program to help in a response to external financial pressures and structural issues.
IThe partnership has helped secure funding, but it has done more than that.
The partnership in our region is bringing people together. We are building relationships across government and having an impact on how government operates, delivers services and programs in our region.
For example, thanks to our efforts last year, the Premier announced during an address at this year’s assembly that the Wimmera-southern Mallee would be a site for trials of better ways to deliver ‘early-years’ programs in regional and rural areas; and we are getting on with delivering this and other programs.
Since August, we have refined what we’ve learnt from this year’s assembly into tangible key priorities for the Wimmera-southern Mallee, which we presented to the government’s Rural and Regional Ministerial Committee in October.
The people who live in the Wimmera-southern Mallee know the opportunities and challenges facing their communities better than anyone.
Based on what you told us this year, we have again presented our case to the government for the following:
• Further funding to upgrade and maintain roads to an appropriate standard.
• Better telecommunications access for rural areas. Improved public transport including return of passenger rail to Western Victoria.
• Changes to the Local Government funding structure to maintain quality operations, infrastructure and services without increasing the burden on ratepayers.
• Integrated regional planning to secure the region’s sustainability, promote economic development and set a long-term plan for a vibrant future.
• Regional service delivery planning to ensure key government services are effective, targeted and meet the needs of communities, including health and family violence.
The Wimmera Southern Mallee Partnership gives us access to the State Government and a commitment from them to provide resources and reduce red tape, where possible, to address our most pressing concerns.
The Wimmera-southern Mallee is making the most of this opportunity to have our voice heard in the heart of government and ensure our region thrives in the future.
Speaking of the future, at the regional assembly we heard from the young people of our region in a short animation.
If you haven’t seen it yet, it really is worth a look online at engage.vic.gov.au/wimmera-southern-mallee.