REGIONAL cities should be a major benefactor of more than half a billion dollars added to government coffers this week.
That is the view of Ballarat’s community leaders who said a number of projects in the region could benefit from an injection in government funding.
Tatts Group was forced to hand back $540 million in lost pokies compensation to the Victorian government earlier this week with Treasurer Tim Pallas saying the money would be injected into infrastructure projects.
Committee for Ballarat chair Janet Dore said it was important government considered rail projects to improve the city’s train line with the recently acquired money.
“You can talk about the Sky Rail and Metro Rail, but this is new money, totally new money and it should go to the next major project that is needed,” she said.
“We have clearly shown connectivity from Ballarat to Melbourne needs to be addressed and electrification and duplication to Melton is the way to go.
While the Ballarat rail line is in dire need of improvements, duplication to Melton would ease much of the pressure for the troubled V/Line service. The Melton project has frequently been brought up as essential for a decade and seen as a solution to the booming population in Melbourne’s west.
“We just need to keep taking every step towards improving the capacity on the (Ballarat) line,” Ms Dore said.
“The money should be all spent in the regions, if they don’t stop investing in the metro area they will just create more congestion. They can relieve the pressure by making the regions a good alternative.”
City of Ballarat mayor Des Hudson said there were a number of projects that government could assist council to fund. “There is no doubt, even for other councils, not just the City of Ballarat, the funding could be used to help fund that infrastructure gap,” he said.
“Even local roads that can come under the council spotlight, again not always a sexy project but critical when we are talking about growing cities. We would certainly be putting our hand up and saying here are eight or 10 projects that could be funded.”
Cr Hudson said a variety of projects should be looked at, from major infrastructure work to smaller community projects.
“If there is that sense that there is that extra money going around then let’s make sure we are putting our hand up for our fair share,” he said.
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