A newly-created VicRoads department focused on regional roads will come to Ballarat in September.
The state government announced the new Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) on Thursday, with up to 20 new jobs for the bureau.
The department will set up in the Ballarat CBD by September 1, will eventually move to the GovHub development, due to open in 2020. It is the first definitive stack of jobs heading to the Civic Hall site.
Part of a $941 million regional roads pledge ahead of next week’s budget, RRV will oversee $333 million in funding to improve road maintenance on more than 1,000 kilometres of state roads.
A chief regional roads officer heading up the division will report directly to the VicRoads CEO. Eight to 10 of the new jobs will make up a country roads call centre to provide assistance to VicRoads’ regional divisions.
The state government have flagged $100 million in the budget to create a grant fund for regional and rural councils to fix country roads.
VicRoads acting chief executive Kerry Thompson said Ballarat jobs that didn’t fit in to the RRV mold would not be moved elsewhere, as the announcement was about “holding on to the existing staff we’ve got, and actually adding more”.
“The new regional roads officer will work with local communities and stakeholders about what they need around maintenance and safety for their roads,” she said. “Fewer potholes is what we’re aiming for.”
In 2016, Liberal leader Matthew Guy pledged to move the entire VicRoads department to Ballarat if elected on November 24.
Western Victoria MP Joshua Morris told The Courier today’s announcement showed a clear “point of difference” along party lines, with the Liberals already pledging to bring 600 VicRoads jobs to Ballarat.
“Melbourne taking 90 per cent of the state’s growth, but we know Ballarat is built for growth and can achieve a great outcome by accepting more people and taking the pressure off,” he said.
“To get more people to Ballarat, we need greater diversity of job opportunities.”
At the press conference in Ballan, roads and roads safety minister Luke Donnellan said the change was about “refocusing VicRoads on regional and country roads” through a central unit.
The upcoming state budget will also include $98 million for planning and pre-construction of new bypasses for the Western Highway at Beaufort and Ararat.