Geelong bodies unite on State Budget needs

News

Five Geelong region peak organisations have combined to call on the state government to include specific projects and initiatives in its 2020-21 Budget to be delivered in coming weeks.

The united call comes from:

o G21 - Geelong Region Alliance
o Committee for Geelong
o Geelong Chamber of Commerce
o Tourism Greater Geelong & The Bellarine
o Geelong Manufacturing Council.

Our five organisations believe the identified projects and initiatives would benefit the region’s economic and social recovery post COVID-19.

Geelong’s peak bodies are committed to working together to drive the recovery of our region post COVID-19.  Specifically, we believe the delivery of initiatives on the list would enhance the region’s opportunity to stimulate jobs.

Our list includes infrastructure, visitor economy product and much needed community facilities, plus support packages for business, manufacturing and our important Deakin University.

We have also identified opportunities to fund the necessary planning for the future transport connectivity of our region and for preparing our people for lifelong learning to access employment as the future of work rapidly changes.

We also ask for the bringing forward of already budgeted projects, such as those included in the Geelong City Deal and the duplication of the rail track between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds, in order to stimulate job creation.

The projects and initiatives which the group considers should be included in the upcoming State Budget are (in no particular order):

Upgrades to the road network servicing GeelongPort

A $15 million investment in road upgrades is essential to cater for the increased volume of vehicles accessing the Spirit of Tasmania, scheduled to begin operations out of Geelong from 2022.  More broadly, upgraded road networks servicing GeelongPort are needed to increase freight efficiency, support general port business requirements and deliver on the actions defined within the Port Development Strategy.

Finalise Stage 5 of GMHBA stadium

In order to complete the final stage of the GMHBA Stadium redevelopment additional funds of around $20 million are needed, on top of the $102m already committed to that stage.  The iconic facility is regional Victoria’s premier sporting stadium and needs a final tranche of funding for redevelopment to be fully completed.

Anam Cara House development at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus

Anam Cara House plans a new $18 million 20-bed hospice facility at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus.  State government support of $5 million is needed to ensure the facility can be built.  The federal government has already committed $5 million to the building of the new hospice.  The hospice will be home-like and purpose-built to accommodate a range of hospice services and end-of-life palliative respite choices for people with life-limiting illnesses and those who care for them.

Integrated transport strategy for the G21 region

The region is continuing to rapidly grow, making it vital that transport connectivity is improved, including public transport, roads, connections to Geelong Port and to Avalon. Planning for transport connections to Geelong’s new growth areas at Lovely Banks and Batesford South and the Barwon Heads Road duplication must also be a focus.  A strategy is expected to cost $100,000.

Northern Aquatic and Community Hub

The proposed Norlane complex would deliver state-of-the-art aquatic and fitness facilities along with health and community facilities, with a focus on preventative health and wellbeing.  The City of Greater Geelong has already allocated more than $21 million for the project, however a $20 million contribution from both the state and federal governments is needed for the project to go ahead.  The Northern Aquatic and Community Hub would complement Barwon Health North which is situated on the same site.

Funds to establish of the Great Ocean Road Coast & Parks Authority

The state government has committed to establish the Great Ocean Road Coast & Parks Authority, with a skill-based board and independent chair, to manage the coastal Crown land and marine waters along the Great Ocean Road and its hinterlands.  Adequate funding to enable the Authority to establish from December 2020, and commence a transition to full operations, will be required in the forthcoming state budget.

Duplication of the rail line between South Geelong and Waurn Ponds

This is an approved project of the state and federal governments with funding allocated in the 2023-24 Federal Budget.  Both governments are urged to immediately bring funding forward to commence the $700 million project to create construction jobs over several years. The group believes the project would create better access to the region via rail and assist further private development and economic growth. The project is an essential precursor to faster and more reliable train services between Geelong and Melbourne.

Bellarine Railway Track upgrade

Bellarine Railway Track Infrastructure upgrade works costing $3.407 million would support operation of the Bellarine Railway heritage and special event services, including The Blues Train and The Q Train.  The works would support a crucial tourism asset for the region and create jobs.

You Yangs Master Plan

Parks Victoria has recently developed a draft You Yangs Precinct Masterplan, currently available for public feedback.  When finalised, a range of recommended initiatives under the masterplan will require funding to ensure the environmental balance and ongoing tourism potential of the significant tourism precinct.

Support for Deakin University

Hit hard financially from COVID-19 and now forecasting the loss of hundreds of jobs, the Deakin community needs support from governments, including ‘safe passage’ quarantine pathways for Geelong’s valued international students. Flexibility and funding will be needed to support increased numbers of school leavers and mature age students to study, particularly in areas of skills shortage. Industry policy which builds higher R&D activities by further supporting industry and university collaboration is urgently required.

Expediting all projects associated with the City Deal

The Geelong and Great Ocean Road City Deal is an agreed $375 million pathway for three levels of government to invest in the region’s recovery. The projects are already funded and approved, with many of them having developed project plans. Expediting the funding agreements and enacting these projects immediately can provide the region with increased tourism product plus significant short, medium and long-term employment growth. Importantly, local training and job opportunities will be embedded in contracts under the City Deal. Opportunities to include additional projects in the future is also sought.

Business Package

A targeted business package for the Geelong region is needed, including: financial counselling and mentoring for businesses significantly impacted by the disruption; regroup and restart programs to kick start businesses and re-build confidence; investments in start-ups; incentives for businesses to employ new staff; tailored programs for retail, hospitality and tourism; and increased support for sole traders.

Advanced Manufacturing for the Future

Advancing Manufacturing for the Future (Innovation, Leadership and Collaboration) funding support of $1.4 million over two years is required.  This would support a Regional Innovation Collaboration Program (RICP) Program, a Manufacturing Leadership, Diversification and Support Program and the world-leading Deakin-based Advanced Fibre Cluster.

Brand Geelong

Funding is needed to help implement the new Geelong brand identity as a cohesive integrated campaign over three years.  The funding would support greater engagement with target audiences about the opportunity to move to, work, visit and invest in the Geelong region.

Creative spaces in Geelong CBD

A program to support artists and creative industries in central Geelong would reactivate vacant commercial and retail spaces, including spaces resulting from COVID financial pressures, to benefit the region’s cultural and arts sectors.

Future of Work

Support is needed to continue Future of Work discussions among the broader Geelong region community.  Discussions would include decision makers from a wide range of sectors on the economic, social and skills impact of COVID-19 and how the Geelong region can collaboratively develop a recovery strategy.  This would allow continuation of work begun under the G21 Learning Scoping Strategy by G21, the Committee for Geelong and other bodies.

Co-working spaces

Prior to COVID-19 co-working business spaces were establishing within Geelong.  However, COVID has demonstrated greater scope for migration of people to the region from Melbourne to work from home or from co-working spaces.  Funding is required to develop a co-working space strategy for Geelong CBD, looking at the development of safe public and private sector shared work environments to foster this growth area.

Extension of JobKeeper

A strong economic recovery from COVID for Victoria and the G21 region will be dependent on the continuation of JobKeeper payments in this state beyond 28 March 2021, when it is currently scheduled to end nationally.  Victorians should be entitled to receive JobKeeper support beyond March due to the economic impact of second wave COVID-19 restrictions not experienced by other states.

Whilst JobKeeper is not funded by the state, we urge the state to lobby the federal government to retain it beyond March 2021, or otherwise provide equivalent assistance.

A focus on local and social procurement

If included in the supply chain, local industry will benefit from significant government and private investment. Funding contracts need strong local content provisions which should target and support regional suppliers and, where relevant, mandated enforceable local procurement provisions.

The region, through the GROW initiative, has thrown its support behind the notion of inclusive economic growth. As a whole, the region recognises that there are areas and suburbs experiencing high levels of disadvantage and that through socially procured employment, opportunities can be created for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. All government funding contracts should include strong, measurable provisions for GROW social procurement.

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G21 – Geelong Region Alliance

“Now more than ever, in the midst of this pandemic, leadership from the peak organisations across our region is crucial,” G21 CEO Elaine Carbines said.

“That’s why we are joining together to give clear guidance to the state government about projects and initiatives we in this region believe must be recognised in the upcoming budget to help us rebuild post COVID.

“We in the region know our needs better than anyone. We call on the state government to listen to the region as it frames the upcoming budget.”

Committee for Geelong

“The impacts of COVID have been profound, but this pandemic also provides significant opportunity to strategically position the Geelong region for sustainable growth. Interest in regional living, working and investment is increasing and we need to be ready to support our community to recover and prosper,” Committee for Geelong CEO Jennifer Cromarty said.

“Geelong has a history of resilience when responding to economic shocks. This resilience has been demonstrated through innovative and agile approaches to economic and social transformation.

“We now need support from the state government to help leverage this opportunity to ensure Victoria’s largest regional city continues to play a vital role in our economic future.”

Geelong Chamber of Commerce

“We urge the Government to recognise the importance of regional areas in Victoria’s recovery and invest in programs to assist businesses to drive jobs and growth,” Geelong Chamber of Commerce CEO Ben Flynn said.

Geelong Manufacturing Council

“We are presented with an opportunity to rebuild and reposition our economy as a result of COVID-19. One positive pivot has been the move towards Australian made. Inherent in that is the recognition that we have the capacity to design, engineer and manufacture innovative products right here in Geelong with our innovative industry and University culture,” Geelong Manufacturing Council CEO David Peart said.

“Advanced manufacturing is now more relevant than ever and we look forward to working with the Victorian Government in this difficult time to achieve recovery and growth.”

Tourism Greater Geelong & The Bellarine

“The budget period presents real opportunity for Governments to provide strong support for visitor economy projects that will underpin a recovery and growth of the sector following the enormous challenges presented by COVID restrictions,” Tourism Greater Geelong & The Bellarine Acting Executive Director Tracy Carter said.