By Colin MacGillivray

MITCHELL Shire leaders have voiced frustration with last week’s Victorian Budget, which they claim as ‘possibly the worst budget’ ever seen for the area.

More than $12 billion for healthcare, $3.5 billion for public transport and $1.8 billion to build 13 new schools across the state were among the tentpole items in Tuesday’s budget, but Mitchell Shire Mayor Bill Chisholm said he was disappointed with allocations for the region.

He said he had expected more investment for services and infrastructure across the south of Mitchell Shire, with populations in towns such as Wallan and Beveridge set to explode with new housing developments.

Cr Chisholm said while the government had made health and education priorities in its budget, it had neglected funding for a secondary school in Kilmore and a primary school in Wallan, as well as money for a planned $23 million Seymour Community Wellbeing Hub.

“This is possibly the worst budget we’ve ever seen for Mitchell Shire and our residents. Essentially, we’ve seen zero investment for our region in this budget,” he said.

“This is, for the second year in a row, a very disappointing budget for Mitchell Shire, and builds upon a significant lack of investment from the State Government over the last four years.

“The State Government has, again, provided no investment which would support our growth or help to transform our community. Last year Mitchell did receive some small funding, this year Mitchell received essential zero investment from the State Government.”

Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes defended the government’s budget, pointing out that Mitchell Shire Council had received about $28 million through the Growing Suburbs Fund since 2015 to support 28 projects including the Wallan Town Heart project, Broadford Youth Centre, the current rejuvenation of Kilmore’s Sydney Street and $3.4 million towards a new sports and recreation hub at Kilmore’s JJ Clancy Reserve.

Ms Symes said the government had also allocated $3.4 million for upgrades at Marie Williams Kilmore Family and Children’s Centre and Wandong Kindergarten upgrades in order to create more kindergarten places for children in the shire.

“Regional Victoria is thriving. With regional unemployment the lowest in the nation at 3.2 per cent and our record levels of investment, the regions are booming,” she said.

“This year’s budget continues to back rural and regional Victorians. It delivers on the issues that matter most – while creating more jobs.

“It’s Labor that has the track record of delivering the upgrades, projects and services that our local community needs, and I’ll continue to work with Mayor Chisolm and council to continue to deliver.”

But Member for Euroa Steph Ryan savaged the budget as prioritising metropolitan Melbourne at the expense of outer-metropolitan and rural areas.

“Regional towns like Seymour, Kilmore and Broadford are growing communities that need investment in new infrastructure,” she said.

“The Kilmore SES has been pushing for new facilities so it can grow its volunteer base. I will keep advocating for the unit, which is responding to more and more callouts as the region grows.

“Seymour’s plans for a new wellbeing hub to integrate health and mental health support and other community services were also overlooked.

“Broadford Secondary College needs a new masterplan and capital funding, much like Seymour College, which was forced to close its hydrotherapy pool due to a lack of funding.

“I have raised all these projects directly with ministers in Parliament and it’s incredibly disheartening to know none of them will happen under this government.”

Ms Ryan also took aim at the government for not funding a Northern Highway bypass of Kilmore.

She slammed the lengthy delays – the government has not acquired land for the bypass – as unjustifiable and costly.

“If Daniel Andrews stays in government, we will be flying hovercrafts before this project gets built,” she said.

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