We are less than 100 days from the Victorian election.
In distilling our election priorities, its clear that we are not just looking for investment and infrastructure. We need our incoming upper and lower house representatives to use their position to deliver strong, intelligent leadership to influence Victorian Government policy, as well as federal government policy on key issues including water and the bypass.
The incoming Victorian Government will need to hit the ground running.
The MDBA has confirmed that more than 80% of the water savings have already been secured. The final 20% includes 450GL of water that is subject to the socio-economic safeguards, and around 6-7% that is linked to projects that either need more time to be delivered or projects that, with the benefit a decade of hindsight, are unlikely to deliver their intended savings. In many cases these projects could be switched out for proven performers if the deadlines can be extended.
Buybacks may seem an easy way to secure the final 20% but they jeopardise the 80% that is already in the bank. The price tag on any Victorian buybacks begins at $2 billion – that is the Victorian and Australian taxpayers’ investment that is at stake if buybacks leave us with a system that is no longer viable to deliver water for irrigation, to towns and to critical environmental sites.
Ensuring good policy and outcomes for Greater Shepparton’s community, environment and economy will require strong, intelligent, and sustained leadership from our local members and from the Victorian Government.
Completion of GV Health redevelopment
An incoming Victorian Government must commit to the completion of the entire Goulburn Valley Health redevelopment masterplan.
Our health services need to keep pace with the growth and service needs of a catchment that extends from the Riverina to the northern outskirts of Melbourne, with increasingly complex physical and mental health needs. Providing a safe and attractive workplace is also key to ensuring we have the workforce needed to operate the upgraded and expanded hospital.
The hospital redevelopment is also key to our region training medical specialists, GPs, nurses, and allied health professionals to work at GV Health and in other regional areas. The Melbourne Uni school of Rural Health’s Shepparton campus has the capacity to graduate up to 30 rural GPs each year. La Trobe University and GOTAFE provide nursing and other health courses with the ambition for a clinical health school in partnership with GV Health. These regional training pathways strengthen service delivery for our region and the entire state, and they rely on GV Health for placements and training.
Housing supply and mix
There is an obvious nexus between housing availability and our region’s ability to grow, train and retain the workforce we need and to ensure all members of our community can participate in our region’s tremendous economic momentum and even greater potential.
The 2021 Census data indicates that Greater Shepparton’s population will break 70,000 in 2022, and we will grow at almost 2000 new residents each year residents by 2036. Overall, our city will grow at 17.51% to exceed 83,000 residents by 2036, but Greater Shepparton’s urban centre is forecast to grow even faster at 21.6% with around 350-400 new dwellings required each year for the next 15 years.
We are looking to the Victorian government to streamline processes and provide resources to supplement local planning and building approvals and to release land. But with many relocating residents seeking higher density CBD-style accommodation that is close to work and services, we have an opportunity to rebalance our housing mix and unlock the potential of our CBD. Support to realise these opportunities is key to growing our workforce and lifting participation in work and education.
Grow indigenous and industry-linked education
Most of our secondary schools, TAFEs and Universities, key employers in health, aged care, manufacturing, and ag technical and service industries are within a 5 km radius of Shepparton’s Telstra Tower. It is about as close as you can get without actually co-locating, and it is our secret weapon in developing training and career pathways that blend learning and earning, as well as innovative, industry-relevant research and post-grad opportunities.
There are some gaps in our pathways. For example, there are 10 technical schools in Victoria including Geelong, Gippsland, Bendigo, and Ballarat – but not in Shepparton where our food and fibre manufacturing, low carbon energy and transport industries have tremendous potential to lead the world.
We are calling on the next Victorian Government to complete the final stages of the Shepparton Education Plan, to support GOTAFE upgrade its aging campus to lift its trade and tech training facilities and help secure Federal Government funding for a clinical health school to train students in nursing, midwifery, and allied health. These initiatives will allow Shepparton to deploy our secret weapon and become the leading regional centre for industry-linked training and education.
We are also looking for progress on the Munarra Centre of Regional Excellence. This locally-lead initiative is a key element in delivering the Goulburn Murray Regional Prosperity Plan and the additional $150 mln of GRP by 2036 for the Goulburn Murray region.
Support and complement local renewable energy initiatives
There are three primary components to secure energy – generation, storage, and distribution.
We are well placed for energy generation. Within one or two postcodes our local industry already creates the waste and wastewater resources that could generate renewable energy to power our local manufacturing and processing industry, create green gas to fuel our freight industry, and produce green fertilisers for use on our local farms and orchards. We have several solar farms, with potential for more. We are calling for the next Victorian government to continue to support these initiatives and the spin off opportunities for our local trades, training, and R&D.
We are also looking for support to improve local energy storage and distribution. From big batteries to community storage, grid access and transformation, there are key investments required to reset energy storage and distribution infrastructure to support the transition to renewables and a secure energy future for our region.
Deliver the Shepparton bypass
Shepparton is already the most important intersection on the freight route that links Brisbane to the Port of Melbourne – the busiest container port in Australia with almost 40 percent of all container movements. We are home to a quarter of Victoria’s heavy vehicles, supported by a network of service providers.
Victorian government data shows that between now and 2050 Victoria’s freight activity is forecast to double, and possibly triple and a good portion of this increased freight will travel through Shepparton – and at present this means rumbling through the CBD at 40kph.
We are looking to the Victorian Government to work with the Federal Government to lock in the now urgent timelines and funding for this critical piece of infrastructure that will ensure Australia’s national freight network can function efficiently and safely, and allow Greater Shepparton to unlock the potential of its CBD to be a great place to live, work, study and play.
Include Shepparton in the 2026 Commonwealth Games and its legacy
Greater Shepparton City Council spearheaded this innovative approach to deliver the Commonwealth Games. Whether its redevelopment of our basketball stadium or electric buses, Greater Shepparton must not be left out of the promised economic stimulus and legacy benefits enjoyed by the hub cities.