Ballarat left behind by state and federal governments

BALLARAT has been short-changed by state and federal governments in recent years, receiving far less major project funding than regional counterparts Bendigo and Geelong.

Despite Ballarat being a hotspot for politicians this week, analysis by The Courier shows the region has received little more than a third of major funding announcements given to Geelong and half that of Bendigo since 2010.

Ballarat benefited from $420 million in major initiative spending between 2010-2014, falling short of the $806 million provided to Bendigo and $1.11 billion given to Geelong.

The Courier has sifted through government documents, media reports and budget papers to come up with a list which, while not encompassing all government funding for the respective regions, shows a definite trend.

The biggest single funding announcement for Ballarat came in the Victorian state government's 2011 budget for $73.4 million to recruit doctors and nurses and for new beds at Ballarat Base Hospital. Other major announcements were $46.4 million for a helipad and new car park at the Base, $42 million to build the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, and $35.5 million for the first stage of the Ballarat Western Link Road.

In contrast, Bendigo's biggest announcement was $473 million for a new hospital, while Geelong has won more than $300 million for work on the Geelong Ring Road and Princes Highway.

In the past fortnight, Ballarat has seen a string of election-year promises, including $31.5 million to redevelop Eureka Stadium by Labor and the relocation of VicRoads to Ballarat by the Coalition.

Three state seats in the Ballarat region, Wendouree, Buninyong and Ripon, are considered marginal at this year's state election and will be hard fought by both major parties.

Federally, Ballarat has not been a marginal seat for almost a decade. Last September, Catherine King had her margin slashed to 4.9 per cent.

How we added up the funding

COMPILING the figures relating to government funding announcements for Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong was a difficult task, with no definitive document to go on.

While it was a challenge to come up with an accurate picture of the funding allocations to each region, we did our best to pull together the overall trend.

Heading into an election year, The Courier felt it was important to see where Ballarat sat compared with its regional neighbours.

We relied on budget documents, media releases and news reports to find as many specific funding announcements as we could for each area. We also asked the offices of state and federal parliamentarians to verify project funding. 

There are more than 150 funding announcements on the list, worth $2.33 billion. It has taken almost a month to compile the analysis.

Most projects are specific infrastructure commitments, however extra support for community services has been included where appropriate. Only projects exceeding $500,000 were tallied.

Ongoing funding allocations, in health and education, have not been included in our list as they are split across the regions in each budget.

Statewide infrastructure projects, such as the Regional Rail Link and wi-fi on trains, have also been left out because they serve all areas equally.

Projects that do not sit in the Ballarat area, such as much of the work on the Western Highway duplication between Beaufort and Ararat, have not been added to the region's total.

We understand that the list will probably come under scrutiny from both levels of government who will look to find what we have missed.

What cannot be argued is the definite trend of Geelong and Bendigo receiving a far greater share of funding than Ballarat.


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