Snapshots - May 2009

May 2009

Colleagues and friends of G21,

As a key member of the broader G21 family, each month we will keep you informed of the key projects and activities of the G21 alliance. G21 is the formal alliance of government, business and community organisations, working together to improve people's lives in the G21 Region.

New G21 web site

The new G21 web site is now on line. The site features news and resources from G21 and each of the eight G21 Pillars as well as an extensive regional resource library, live weather and news feeds and more.

More content and functionality will be added over the next few weeks, including an expanded regional resource library of reports, maps, images, plans, submissions and the like. While the site is in development, the old G21 site will remain available, with the transition to be completed by the end of June.

Budget advances delivery of G21 Priority Projects

The State and Federal budgets have been a focus of attention this month given the work done by G21 and its partners in highlighting regional priorities. Highlights included the funding for the rail link to Melbourne, upgrades to buses in the region, upgrade to GPAC (a component of the Arts Precinct project) and $50m for necessary rail upgrades for Geelong Port.

Priority Project: Princes Highway West Upgrade

First confirmed in March, Federal and State budgets included promised funding allocations for the duplication of the Princes Highway from Waurn Ponds to Winchelsea. Construction will start next year and the stage is expected to be completed in 2014.

The federal government also declared the 62 kilometre section of the Princes Highway from Waurn Ponds to Colac in Victoria to be a road of national significance by making it a part of the National Land Transport Network (formerly known as Auslink), making it eligible to receive National Network maintenance funding.

The State government budget included funds to make safety upgrades to the road west of Colac, the scale and timing is dependant on Victorian budget capacity against competing priorities. The full length of the Highway is included under the National Land Transport Network; however duplication of the road to Colac is subject to funds being available from the Commonwealth.

The planned improvements to the highway follow an intensive campaign undertaken by the Princes Highway West Alliance of Local Government (PHWALG) that was launched two years ago. The campaign had already assisted in securing in commitments from state and federal governments of $220M for the duplication of Princes Highway West from Waurn Ponds to Winchelsea. As an integral part of the Alliance, G21 member associations have actively supported the project as one of the top ten priorities for the region throughout the “fix it now” campaign.

Priority Project: Arts Precinct

The State Govt announced $3 million towards the first stage of the Geelong Performing Arts precinct redevelopment which includes the refurbishment of the Ford Theatre. This follows on from the $7.9 million committed in the 2008 State Budget.

Priority Project: Tourism Trails

Tourism Victoria and Regional Development Victoria are supportive of proposals for the funding of capital works for priority regional pathways / track projects that deliver clear economic and liveability outcomes. The Victorian budget lists a “new Surf Coast walk cycling trail from Torquay to Aireys Inlet” in its overview for the Barwon South West region.

Priority Project: Career Development & Skills Service

A G21 priority, the Career Development and Skills Service (CDSS) project has seen some welcome progress in recent weeks with the second phase of the CDSS plan now funded with a $50,000 grant from the Innovative Regions Centre (IRC).

Designed to provide an accessible, comprehensive and seamless service for workers, job seekers and employers, the CDSS aims to co-locate existing federal, State and community career and skills service providers in one easy-to-access location, with outreach support and virtual access. This innovative arrangement would make a real difference to those affected by industry transition and is becoming increasingly urgent in the current economic climate.

At a meeting in late March, an influential and informed Advisory Committee was established to identify and harness all available funding and ensure that the model proposed for the CDSS is acceptable to all levels of government.

Earlier this month, the CDSS Advisory Committee had its first meeting with State and Commonwealth officers in attendance. The group has also been consulting with key G21 region employers to better understand where job losses and retentions are likely to occur.

A model for the preferred CDSS and an indication of partners will be delivered when contractors Altegis in partnership with Researching Futures complete Stage 2 of this project in mid July.

Priority Project: Public Transport Program

The G21 Integrated Public Transport Strategy was picked up in total in the Victorian Public Transport Plan. Funding for this commences mid 2009 and includes:

  • major funding for the fast regional rail connection to Melbourne
  • a new bus exchange and improved bus services for Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula which will improve cross town connections in Geelong and provide for better links with Deakin University and V-Line services.
  • The expansion of Marshall train station parking from 100 to 300 spaces by the end of the year
  • Extension of platforms and other capital works enabling eight car trains to operate from Geelong
  • Transport solutions to boost capacity and efficiency of Geelong to Melbourne trains

Further details on these initiatives will be available in coming weeks.

Other opportunities

The budget also includes significant funding for housing affordability and the region is well placed to capture some of this based on previous work. G21's preferred provider Housing Choices Australia (HCA) has been working with local organisations and already has over 80 units under management. They are also dealing with project developers, with Council assistance, to identify parts of existing projects that they might purchase. A senior officer of HCA has been operating out of the G21 offices in setting up these deals and the company is looking for a permanent office in the region.

Major reform and funding opportunities are also anticipated in primary care, chronic disease management and workforce development. Funds have also been committed for upgrades to Geelong Hospital and our region’s schools, local roads, skills development and dental services.

The details of many of these projects are still to be finalised and work will continue for some time to identify the local impacts and how the funds might best be applied. This information will be circulated as it is confirmed.

Funding confirmed for IRC projects

Three of the G21 Innovative Region Centre (IRC) project submissions have received funding confirmations totaling $155,000 over the past few months. Stage 4 of the BioGeelong Cluster Development Project (auspiced by City of Greater Geelong), the establishment of an Innovation & Commercialisation Network for Industry SMEs (auspiced by the Geelong Manufacturing Council) and the G21 Career Development & Skill Service (Auspiced by G21) are now underway.

G21 Priority Project review underway

Nearly a year ago, G21 identified 10 Priority Projects for the Geelong Region. Many of these projects have since been significantly advanced, with others benefiting from the ongoing support of the G21 Pillars, Board and network.

During the first few months of 2009, the G21 Pillars have assessed and prioritised projects in their areas of expertise, taking into account the anticipated impacts of new challenges and opportunities such as the Global Financial Crisis.

The G21 Board will now match the Pillar priority projects, with support opportunities from State and Federal Government to arrive at a new list of 10 (or so) projects. The G21 alliance will then be engaged to champion the priority projects in the State & Federal budgets of 2010-11.

Work will also continue on the delivery of existing G21 Priority Projects.

Click here to see last year's G21 Priority Projects.

G21 participates in the Regional State Planning Initiative

The State government is currently working with regions around Victoria to agree first on a ‘settlement framework’ (or projected population figures) and then to identify key issues for each region, broadly grouped under the established headings of sustainability, liveability and productivity. The State government aim is to have a first cut structure by the end of June 2009 and a largely completed draft document by about September, with the final document launch expected in mid 2010.

The G21 region is considered to be well positioned to meet these requirements because of the existence of the G21 Geelong Region Plan. There is still some work to do in reviewing/agreeing to the settlement framework and this will be handled through the G21 Planning & Services Pillar.
 
A process has also begun to translate the themes in the G21 Plan to align more directly with the State structure. The opportunity is being taken to review the issues and priorities in the G21 Plan and pick up any gaps or changes in emphasis. The work of the G21 Pillars in reviewing their priorities and the main thrusts in the budgets of the five G21 Councils are informing this review.
 
A meeting is also being arranged with a group of key State Government Ministers to explore the proposed plan and the issues that it might encompass. At this stage, it looks like this meeting will take place on June 10. 

Agribusiness Cluster off and running

Agribusiness faces major and ongoing change to systems and markets, with federal and international policy often being key determinants of viability. Climate change, water availability, technology and systems, farming practices, skills capacity and small community sustainability all have major impacts on the entire industry which is a key and growing part of the G21 region economy.

Like other successful G21 clusters, the new G21 Agribusiness Forum will be driven by the industry and will deliver benefits underpinned by profitability, viability and strengthened growth prospects for associated industries. Current members of the cluster include representatives from various privately owned enterprises which include viticulture, hydroponics, feedlot and stockfeed farmers as well as financier, consultants and Local and State Government representatives.

The first meeting of the G21 Agribusiness Forum Board was held on Wednesday, May 27. Chaired by Bellbrae Farmer Jim Bufton, who is also Chair of the Surf Coast Shire Rural Committee, the meeting saw formal agreement on the rules of association and the identification of several key projects:

  • Transition from livestock to grain
  • G21 Secure Water project recommendations
  • Thompson Valley Irrigated Agricultural Project

The G21 Agribusiness Forum is now developing a range of materials to communicate and promote its activities to interested stakeholders.

Water Taskforce established

At its April meeting, the G21 Board appointed David Spear as Chairman of the soon to be formed G21 Water Taskforce, which will be responsible for stewardship of the recommendations included in the G21 Secure Water for Economic Development Study, and the Action Plans guiding implementation.

The move follows the completion of the first stage of the G21 Priority Project “Secure Water Program” - the public release of the G21 Secure Water for Economic Development Study (2009) which examines the supply and demand of water for economic purposes in the G21 region in response to the G21 Geelong Region Plan Directions 1.2 and 4.4.

While acknowledging the significant plans and achievements of Barwon Water, the Study also identifies key resource, infrastructure and institutional challenges to the sustainability and growth of the G21 region’s existing $392M Agribusiness Sector, which accounts for 13% of the total economy. It also identifies that the G21 region has a proven competitive advantage and great potential for growth as a location for rural enterprises, particularly in the intensive livestock sector, if these challenges can be overcome.

Five key Action Plans are presented to address the challenges identified. These include:

  • Augmentation of the potable water supply system to meet the needs of the intensive livestock sector;
  • A two-tier pricing structure for the Black Rock recycled water scheme;
  • Development of a set of guidelines to determine the terms on which small-scale desalination facilities can be introduced and used;
  • Investigation of regional opportunities for aquifer storage and recovery of recycled and storm water; and
  • a more detailed assessment of sustainable water supplies to meet the needs of enterprises in the Moorabool Valley.

The study identified the complexity of the current institutional and policy arena as a challenge to achieving positive economic development outcomes. The report recommended that a G21 Water Taskforce be established to promote co-ordination of regional water issues between agencies and facilitate interaction between local councils and various regional bodies.

G21 region television commercial now shooting

The G21 region's population is ageing faster than most other regions in Australia. The Geelong Region Plan recognises the need to address this imbalance. Targeted primarily to Melbourne audiences, the new television commercial that is being filmed in locations on the Surf Coast, Golden Plains Shire and Geelong aims to attract businesses and young skilled professionals to live, work, learn and invest in the G21 region.

Originally scheduled to air on free to air channels in June, the launch of the commercial has been delayed until later in the year, when our target audience will be more likely to plan for a change.

The television commercial is part of the G21 priority project: Regional Marketing Program, which has been fully funded by a range of government and business partners.

People

We welcome Rob Small, CEO of Colac Otway Shire back to the region and on to the G21 Board. Rob was involved with G21 in its early days. We look forward to his contribution in his new role as a G21 Director. Our thanks to Jack Green, who has been an active and valued member of G21 board in his capacity as Acting CEO of Colac Otway Shire over the past few months.

Congratulations to Jason Trethowen, who has been elected Deputy Chair of the G21 Health & Wellbeing Pillar.

This month we also welcome Kate Smith and Anne O’Callaghan to G21. Funded by the Department of Human Services (DHS), Kate is our new Project Support Worker, Health & Wellbeing and Anne is our new Research Assistant, Health and Wellbeing. With this newly expanded team, G21 Health & Wellbeing will be better able to deliver the new integrated business plan for 2009.

This email has been designed to provide you, an important member of the broader G21 Family, with a snapshot of the key projects and activities of the G21 Alliance over the past months. You have been included in the distribution list of this G21 Snapshots email, because you have an important role in improving people’s lives in the G21 Region as a Federal or State parliamentarian, Councillor, Regional Management Forum member, senior manager with regional Councils, senior manager with Regional Development Victoria, G21 Member, G21 Pillar participant, G21 Board member or member of the media (a list of some 300 individuals or organisations). If there are other people in your organisation or network that you think should be aware of this email please feel free to pass it on to them.

If you want further information or wish to bring something to our attention, please contact either of us at the numbers or addresses given below or refer to the G21 website at www.G21.com.au.