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July 5, 2010

The prospect of State and Federal elections over the next six months is an opportunity for East Gippslanders to demand their fair share of government funding for important local projects.

The important debates about health, education, aged care and transport infrastructure will naturally dominate the discussion but one area I would like to see focussed on is the level of funding for facilities on public land.

Over the past 15 years I’ve been involved in tourism marketing and promotion in our region and I have continually pushed the case for more funding to upgrade infrastructure such as boat ramps, jetties, picnic areas, walking trails and community playgrounds.

We are blessed to live in a region with extraordinary natural attractions but the infrastructure provided for visitors to enjoy the great outdoors is severely limited.

In many cases the basic equipment such as picnic tables and walking trails are run down to the extent that they are unusable.

Over the past decade we have seen major cuts to some of our traditional industries like timber harvesting as a direct result of the Labor Government’s decisions.

At the same time there has been a failure to invest in the infrastructure which would allow new jobs to be created in not only the construction and maintenance of facilities but also in the tourism industry.

For its part, the Federal Government has not taken an active interest in regional tourism and has focussed its attention on the major metropolitan markets.

There have been a few notable exceptions including the construction of boardwalks at Metung and Mallacoota which have become popular additions to town services, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

In Lakes Entrance the new Cunninghame Arm bridge received Federal Government funding under the successful Roads to Recovery program which was created by The Nationals as part of the previous Howard Government.

Quite recently, Parks Victoria has made some long overdue improvements to the Lake Tyers Forest Park and I believe there are many more opportunities to improve facilities possibly in partnership with community groups and work for the dole style programs.

The East Gippsland Rail Trail which ventures across 100 kilometres into the far east is also one of our region’s greatest assets.
The challenge for the future is for all levels of government to help build the facilities that will make it more attractive for the travelling public to stop and enjoy everything our region has to offer.

The benefits for the tourism industry are obvious but maintaining and improving an already magnificent environment also provides significant socio-economic benefits for local families and further cements East Gippsland’s reputation as a great place to live.