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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - 2016 Victorian Budget

A Budget - like Christmas - can be a time for happiness or disappointment. It is a harsh fact of life that sometimes you don't get what you want . . . and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised.  This week, the Victorian Budget was more of the latter and, overall, the Committee for Geelong believes that Geelong did quite well.

Our region will greatly benefit from the Government's significant investments in road, rail and education.  There are also many other state-wide initiatives included in the Budget that could also benefit Geelong.  For example, the $101 million Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and the $20 million Regional Events Fund.  We will work with Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine to ensure that our region receives its fair share of this funding.

The $115 million Creative State initiative will provide support for key industry sectors, such as design and the screen industry.  With the creative economy growing at almost double the rate of the broader economy, these sectors are a critical part of our region's future.  Linked to this is GPAC's redevelopment, which received $7 million. The cultural precinct is a critical investment for Geelong.  This project was always intended to be funded by all tiers of government, so we are looking forward to seeing the scale of the Commonwealth Government's commitment in next week's Federal Budget.

Geelong can also benefit from the $32 million International Education Strategy to strengthen Victoria's position as the number one destination for international students. This is particularly important for Geelong given the high quality international education providers in our region including, among others, Deakin University, The Gordon, the Geelong College, Geelong Grammar, Kardinia International College, Belmont High School and Diversitat who have proactively united through the Think Geelong ( initiative to promote Geelong's excellent international education offering.

One of the centrepieces of the Budget was funds for the Drysdale bypass. The Government followed on from last year's $2 million planning money, with the $107 million needed to complete the project in full. 

While it may appear a significant proportion of the Budget money for Geelong is focussed on planning for future projects, we believe this strategic approach is essential to leverage the economic prosperity of Victoria's second-largest city. It is therefore good to see the Budget provided planning money for a range of projects including $3 million to develop a business case for duplication of the railway line between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds - something that the Committee has been advocating for.  We hope the State Government follows this template and funds these projects in next year's budget.

The investment of $2.5 million in strategic planning for regional councils is particularly important for Geelong following the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the City of Greater Geelong. This identified the critical need for "the development of an evidence-based, long-term vision and plan" for Geelong.  We hope that the council will receive a share of this money to help with the development of a vision to transform Geelong.

Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.



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