West Wimmera Shire Councillors and the CEO were fortunate to visit State Parliament on 27-28 March 2018, to meet with key staff from five Ministers' offices, and also with the Mental Health Minister himself.
The advocacy trip was undertaken as an action within the Council Plan 2017-2021 and the topics discussed are contained as key advocacy topics within the Plan.
Very positive discussions were held with the personnel involved, and a number of follow up items will be actioned in the coming weeks.
A summary of the meetings and discussion points is provided as follows:
The first meeting was with the Senior Advisor to the Roads Minister (Luke Donnellan MP) and the Regional Director of VicRoads – Western Region.
The topics discussed included the VicRoads agency agreements and the level of service that is allowed to be provided by Local Government. The provision of a more comprehensive suite of services is desired by many of the agency providers, and an improved financial model is also required. West Wimmera acknowledged that discussions are occurring but are concerned that it is taking too long and for the sake of customer service, asked for a resolution to the negotiations.
West Wimmera also asked for some form of open dialogue on the contract arrangements for the Shire to continue as the maintenance provider for the region.
An acknowledgement was provided of the positive step that has been taken regarding safety improvements for a number of C Class Roads, and support for the ongoing improvements to the Western Highway was also provided. A commitment to continue discussions on how to best utilise available funds for upgrades to C Class Roads was also provided.
The meeting with the Senior Advisor to the Water Minister (Lisa Neville MP) presented an opportunity to promote the positive approach taken to the development of a business case, to justify the investment in a rural pipeline supply into West Wimmera. Also discussed was the need to provide a reticulated sewer scheme in Goroke, and the potential to reintroduce a small town funding scheme to enable this project to progress.
Following a question at the March 2018 Ordinary Council Meeting, the delegation advised the Minister's office of community concerns regarding the quality of the water supply to Harrow. This concern has also been passed on to the region's water authority.
The delegation was fortunate to be joined in a meeting by the Minister for Mental Health – Martin Foley MP. These discussions centred on the need to provide a Rural Outreach Program in West Wimmera. A similar presentation has recently been provided to the Federal Health Minister. The response from both Ministers has been extremely positive and we are hopeful of a positive outcome. Both Ministers would prefer to see a program rolled out over a larger area, and West Wimmera has committed to coordinate discussions with neighbouring Shires to enable this to occur.
Day one concluded with a meeting with the Advisor to the Minister for Regional Victoria (Jaala Pulford MP). The topics discussed included a presentation on the status of externally funded projects, and the future projects that will require funds from state and federal programs.
Also discussed was what assistance the state can provide to West Wimmera to improve telecommunications infrastructure for the region. With poor mobile coverage in some areas and access to NBN not being at a level that is suitable for businesses or education providers, the delegation was keen to partner with the state in lobbying for a better deal.
The second day commenced with a presentation to the Senior Advisor to the Environment Minister (Lily D'Ambrosio MP) on the issue of roadside pest plant and animal management, and the need for the state to take a larger role in what is a growing problem. The reintroduction of government funded inspectors who can place an order on property owners to address the issues on their land was seen as a satisfactory way to deal with these issues.
A presentation was also made on the value to the region of the wetlands contained within the Shire, and the desire to see a consistent volume of water allocated to them. The final point was a discussion about the kangaroo pet food trial which has now concluded, and the impact of high numbers of corellas and kangaroos that the region is battling with.
These meetings concluded with a summary of discussions with the Member for Lowan Emma Kealy MP. This meeting provided an opportunity to discuss a number of significant projects which are currently in front of the Shire. These included the Goroke play space, Edenhope issues, the Harrow Recreation Reserve, and the Kaniva Community and Cultural Precinct.
West Wimmera believes that all of these meetings were of significant value, providing an opportunity to place local issues in front of relevant Ministers, and we will look to make it an annual event on the advocacy calendar.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER