State Budget 2017 | Central Victoria focus

SCHOOLS and rail appear to be the big winners in central Victoria in the 2017-18 state budget, while Bendigo’s ailing court precinct has also landed a funding win.

Thirteen schools in central Victoria – including Spring Gully, Lockwood, Kalianna and Big Hill – will share in $22.8 million in upgrades.

Kalianna Special School will receive more than $10 million in upgrades, while Big Hill Primary School has been promised more than $2 million. 

The state government earlier announced $91 million to improve train services between Bendigo and Echuca, and will also add $311 million for more VLocity carriages, and $316 million in maintenance funding.

The Bendigo Law Courts was the number priority for Business Excellence Bendigo, which advocates on behalf of local business. Legal groups throughout Bendigo have highlighted the dangerous conditions in the outdated courts.

They received some recognition in the budget, with $3.9 million to “develop plans to address current and future demand pressures so cases can be heard sooner”.

The funding is listed to plan for the “modernisation and expansion” of the Bendigo courts.

Minister for regional development Jaala Pulford said the courts have consistently been a “high priority”.

“They are quite dated,” she said.

While the funding commitment was a victory for the legal community, Bendigo did miss out on a specialist family violence court in the budget. The state government will create five in Victoria, including in Ballarat and Shepparton, at a cost of $130 million.

The budget also included:

  • A new police station for Wedderburn
  • Upgrades for the Calder Highway (sharing in $49.2 million among 23 statewide road projects)
  • First Home Owner Grant doubled to $20,000 for new homes in regional Victoria
  • Planning for a new “government hub” in Bendigo – confirmed for Ballarat and LaTrobe Valley
  • Payroll tax to drop from 4.85% to 3.65% in regional Victoria, payroll tax free threshold increase to $625,000 on July 1
  • Funding for Loddon-Campaspe Regional Partnership to “develop business cases”
  • Serpentine region one of four to share in $12 million for online, on-farm technology
  • $44.4 million to protect agricultural industry from biosecurity risks
  • Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre to share in $360.7 million to “strengthen” facilities
  • $24.8 million to increase the reach of Visit Victoria

Full list of central Victorian schools to share in $22.8 million in funding:

  • Bealiba ($60,000)
  • Baringhup ($63,000)
  • Big Hill ($2 million)
  • Carisbrook ($2.4 million)
  • Castlemaine ($500,000)
  • Castlemaine North ($1.2 million)
  • Elphinstone ($220,000)
  • Kalianna ($10 million)
  • Lockwood ($610,000)
  • Nanneella Estate ($90,000)
  • Newstead ($150,000)
  • Spring Gully ($5.17 million)
  • Taradale ($280,000)

The state government predicts the works at Bendigo Senior Secondary College and Wedderburn College will be complete by July.

Not every group received a funding commitment, however.

Rural Councils Victoria requested $150 million for a Rural Community Support Fund, to help councils cope with tightening resource levels.

The plan did not receive funding.

Surpluses ahead for Victoria

Treasurer Tim Pallas’ third budget was an ambitious one, which promised a $1.2 billion surplus to increase by 2.75 per cent per year.

It attempted to address law and order in Victoria – an issue likely to feature prominently at next year’s election – with funding for 3000 more police officers.

The government was also eager to highlight its $1.9 billion investment into family violence prevention, addressing all 227 recommendations from the Family Violence Royal Commission, 

A main roadblock for the government, however, is the federal government’s refusal to help fully fund Daniel Andrews’ $1.45 billion regional rail plan.