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Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says East Gippsland needs more than $180 million in government funding over the next 10 years to achieve its full potential.

Releasing a draft ‘East Gippsland Recovery 2030 Plan’, Mr Chester said all levels of government needed to work with the community and the private sector to invest in practical projects that would create long-term sustainable jobs.

He has highlighted a wide range of projects across the region that have been proposed but never funded for work to commence.

“By any objective socio-economic measure, the East Gippsland region is tracking behind most parts of Australia and is failing to achieve its full potential. The region requires major private and public investment to achieve sustainable growth,” Mr Chester wrote in his plan.

“The combined impacts of drought, bushfire, coronavirus and government policy decisions have added to the poor outlook and a greater sense of urgency is required by all levels of government to initiate and complete job-sustaining projects.

“This draft paper is intended to promote community discussion as it highlights both the opportunity and the urgency for practical action by the Federal and State Governments yet-to-be delivered funding promises to assist in bushfire recovery. While simply delivering on existing funding commitments in a more timely manner would stimulate economic activity, there is a need for additional funds over the next decade to help East Gippsland achieve its full potential.

“The draft paper is effectively a ‘jobs to do list’ and it focuses on projects that are most likely to create long-term, sustainable jobs and build the social, economic, environment and cultural resilience of the region. Critically, the plan highlights the requirement for partnership funding from all levels of government and the private sector to maximise the benefits over the next 10 years. 

“The coronavirus is highly likely to result in increased demand for regional travel destinations and a heightened interest in relocating to regional communities with the capacity to telecommute to work. East Gippsland needs to be ready to capitalise on those opportunities.”

Among Mr Chester’s highest priorities are funding for the proposed Metung Hot Springs; major upgrades of the region’s trail network including the East Gippsland Rail Trail; saving the Snowy River Trestle Bridge; strategic road, rail and telecommunication improvements; and investing in infrastructure on public land to boost the visitor economy through improved facilities for locals and tourists.

“While there are obvious opportunities to build on the region’s traditional strengths, growing the visitor economy has been identified in numerous strategic plans as critical to the future economic prosperity of the region. To date, these plans have not been supported with major capital funding and have largely failed to deliver projects on the ground to replace the employment opportunities lost in traditional industries,” Mr Chester said.

“There is a need for a strategic approach to projects that add value to the region and are not simply maintenance or business-as-usual initiatives that could be funded from other sources. The visitor economy lacks resilience as the current attractions are seasonal and heavily focussed on the warmer months.

“The summer bushfires would not have been as devastating to the economy if East Gippsland had year-round attractions and a better spread of visitor numbers. Consequently, the focus of projects in this discussion paper is on initiatives that strengthen traditional industries and bolster the off-season opportunities across the region, and promote East Gippsland as a great place to live, work and visit.”

Mr Chester is seeking feedback on his plan, which is available at www.darrenchester.com.au

“This discussion paper provides some of the immediate, medium term and longer-term practical opportunities which have been identified in consultation with local government and the community. It recognises that some projects are shovel ready and can begin almost immediately, while other opportunities will take longer to develop and require additional planning and community consultation,” Mr Chester said.

“It is not intended as a final or complete list and new opportunities are likely to be presented as the community engages more fully in the bushfire recovery process in the months and years ahead.”

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