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Hub funding, Kilmore bypass on the agenda

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Seymour Community Wellbeing Hub, a priority project for Mitchell Shire Council, is yet to receive a funding commitment from any party ahead of the state election.

More than 50 people flocked to the Seymour Salvation Army Hall on Tuesday to hear candidates for the seat of Euroa speak ahead of the November 26 state election.

While all candidates threw their support behind the hub project, which will provide a range of health and mental health services to Seymour and surrounding region, there has been no pledges of money for the project.

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Liberal candidate Brad Hearn, Nationals’ Annabelle Cleeland, and Labor’s Angela Tough each spoke glowingly about the proposed project – all being previously briefed on the importance of the hub by Mitchell Shire Council representatives.

The council, health services and the community have long been pushing for the project, with the recent floods in Seymour placing even greater importance on the ability to provide adequate support services to residents of the northern part of the Mitchell Shire.

The hub is planned to bring together several health services in the Seymour community, giving up to 10,000 people access to integrated health and mental health support.

Ms Tough said there was ‘not a case against’ the hub.

“It’s a great initiative and I think we can see the sense of a one-stop shop model through the Orange Door initiative, which is a Labor initiative based on the Royal Commission into Family Violence,” she said.

Ms Cleeland said the Nationals committed funding for the project ahead of May’s federal election but the pledge was not matched by Labor, which won government.

“With significant projects like this, it is a third, a third and a third in many cases between local, state and federal [governments],” she said.

“What I’ve been working on the past few months are personal stories and case studies speaking to all the service providers that would benefit … to make sure if I am elected I could be a really powerful advocate to highlight the urgency of this investment, at the same time, pushing the Federal Government to make sure we all come to the party on this.”

Mr Hearn called the Seymour hub ‘a great project’.

“Our state debt is the same as Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania combined. We’re seeing that investment into healthcare is extremely limited in the next few years,” he said.

“We’re fighting for positive change for our communities and better mental health support, because we know what’s here now is not adequate and not servicing our communities.”

The three major party candidates were joined by candidate hopeful Luke Downing, who had planned to stand as an independent, but failed to register his candidacy with the Victorian Electoral Commission before last week’s cut-off.

The Kilmore bypass was a key issue raised at the forum, along with health services, education and Seymour’s flood recovery.
Mr Hearn called the Kilmore bypass ‘a great project that has been on the backburner for too long’.

“Cindy McLeish, the former Member for Seymour … had this fully funded eight years ago, and now we’re sitting here waiting and saying ‘what’s happened? Where’s the money gone?” he said.

“We’ve committed $300 million to ensuring that the Kilmore bypass is complete. I know that doesn’t complete the whole puzzle of the Kilmore Wallan bypass, but it makes an investment into our electorate.”

Labor’s Angela Tough said she understood the community’s frustration.

“When [Member for Northern Victoria] Jaclyn Symes got into office eight years ago and looked for the money that Cindy McLeish had promised, there was a big black hole there – it hadn’t actually been funded,” she said.

“A couple of weeks ago $30 million was announced for the roundabout at the Wandong Road and Northern Highway intersection. Departmental argy bargy is underway about the actual route, and once there is an overlay for the whole route it will be funded.”

Nationals candiate Annabelle Cleeland said the lack of progress on the bypass had been ‘devastating’ for the Kilmore community.

“There is community fatigue and distrust for the current government because they’ve been neglecting them,” she said.

“That in current budget there is no money allocated towards the project says a lot.

“You’ve got a health and safety issue, an economic challenge and one of the most historically beautiful towns in our community crumbling around someone who lives five minutes down the road. It’s not happening under Labor.”

Flood recovery

Support for Seymour residents and businesses affected by recent flooding was also discussed, with the prospect of a flood levee to protect the town re-examined.

Mr Hearn said the delay of the State Government in declaring the floods a natural disaster hampered the aid the town was able to receive.

“One thing you can count on with a Liberal government is that we’ll call it a natural disaster when there’s a natural disaster. We’ll make sure support is readily available when it needs to be, not wait,” he said.

Ms Cleeland also called the slow response ‘really disappointing’, noting that the Seymour Football Netball Club led recovery efforts in lieu of government assistance.

She said she was in favour of re-examining the need for a flood levee.

“Maybe people are not quite ready to say the words flood levee, but they’re saying there are businesses on the main street that were in the midst of expanding that chose not to, or looking at the insurance challenges of the region,” she said.

“If you look at the finances [the levee was projected to cost] about $22 million. When you look at the clean-up bill, this is extreme. This will be hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the region.

“That smaller investment for a flood levee, if it has the potential for buildings and homes to be insured, I think it’s a conversation that we really have to have, but it has to be one that’s led by our community.”

Ms Tough said she would be guided by community sentiment on a levee.

“Flood mitigation is something that has to be carefully considered. A small levee that was put in a town in Queensland cost $26 million – a much, much smaller place than Seymour – so we’re not talking about small amounts of money,” she said.

“If this is something the Seymour community drives and pushes for, it will have to be a combination of community consultation and experts working out that answer.”

Ballot draws for candidates across Victoria on Friday decided the order of which the candidates would appear on the ballot papers, with Ms Tough taking the first position for Euroa.

Animal Justice Party candidate Elaine Haddock was second, with Ms Cleeland third, Mr Hearn fourth, the Greens’ James Bennett fifth, Family First Victoria’s Paul Bachelor sixth and Freedom Party of Victoria’s Raymond Rowbotham seventh.

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