Labor axe hangs over Regional Development Fund

The Andrews Labor Government looks set to axe Victoria’s dedicated Regional Development Fund, a source of potential government support for important projects in Gippsland South.

Established by The Nationals in government, the successful fund has invested $1 billion over eight years into regional Victorian communities.

Funding for the program expires on June 30 this year but the new Regional Development Minister, Jaclyn Symes refused to guarantee its future when questioned by The Nationals in Parliament this week.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien said projects such as the revitalisation of Leongatha’s Bair Street, the Mirboo North Pool reconstruction and many others would usually have secured state support from this fund.

“The Nationals in government established the Regional Growth Fund to support local jobs, businesses and important community projects,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s been the source of dozens of important projects since, including the Port of Sale cultural hub redevelopment and the Great Southern Rail Trail.

“The Nationals pledged a fresh $1 billion injection for the program if we were elected to government at the recent election, but Labor failed to make a commitment.

“Minister Jaclyn Symes had the chance to allay fears but instead she’s set alarm bells ringing by failing to even mention the Fund when asked about its future by my colleague, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath.

“Daniel Andrews must ensure we have a dedicated fund for regional development initiatives in the upcoming State Budget,” Mr O’Brien said.

“A week doesn’t go by that I don’t have someone asking about funding for a community or job-creating project in Gippsland South. The regional fund was a source for those projects.

Mr O’Brien said The Nationals will keep the pressure on the Andrews Government to continue the program.

“We want a better deal for our communities, and that includes a dedicated Regional Development Fund that will help us continue to drive investment in our communities and decentralise the state. Labor already spends enough on the city – it needs to look beyond the tram tracks and prove that it will truly govern for all Victorians.”

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