The Victorian Government’s state budget announced last Tuesday, May 7 has drawn criticism for its lack of immediate attention to regional roads
State budget fails on roads
VFF president Emma Germano said the state budget had been a ‘reset’ for the economy.

The Victorian Government’s state budget announced last Tuesday, May 7 has drawn criticism for its lack of immediate attention to regional roads, with the VFF saying the ‘lacklustre’ budget was a missed opportunity to drive rural productivity and propel the state’s economy.

VFF president Emma Germano said she was glad that spending on city-centric projects had been reined in, but would have welcomed more immediate investment for regional Victoria.

“Whilst Premier Allan’s budget looks to be a reset for the state, it is a reflection of Victoria’s dire financial situation,” Ms Germano said.

“We’re glad there are no drastic cutbacks for the agriculture industry and no new taxes, but there’s also a lack of investment in our sector in the immediate future.

“Forecasts show state debt will soar to $188 billion over the next few years, so it’s clear we’ll be dealing with huge overhanging debt for some time.

“Despite so many challenges, agriculture continues to underpin the Victorian economy, not to mention the vital role we play in feeding our state and beyond.”

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh has highlighted the lack of funding for road maintenance in regional areas.

Ms Germano also said more funding for ‘crumbling’ road networks in regional areas would have been welcomed.

State Member for Shepparton Kim O’Keeffe said the question of allocation of funding to repair regional roads had not been answered.

“The underfunding and neglect of our roads have left our region with an unsafe network,” Ms O’Keeffe said.

“We need improved road maintenance, not temporary quick fixes like the ones we’ve seen.”

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh also highlighted the lack of funding for road maintenance.

“Repairs to local roads seem to have been forgotten in this budget,” Mr Walsh said.

“There has been a 16 per cent drop in funding for roads since about 2020, but of course road maintenance costs have gone up since then so that makes it an even bigger difference.”

Mr Walsh was also critical of the government extending the timelines of capital projects.

“The timing of some of these projects has been blown out by up to 12-18 months,” Mr Walsh said.

“That’s designed to stretch the budget out, because you don’t want that showing up in next year’s budget.”

Mr Walsh said further reductions in agricultural funding was based on letting past projects lapse.

“For example, funding for deer control has lapsed and the wild dog program was lapsing this year and doesn’t appear in the budget either.

“And because 1080 (poison) has been banned in the state’s north-west, this can be expected to extend to the north-east, which will then make wild dog eradication impossible.”

The government has set aside $964 million for repairing and upgrading roads statewide as part of the second year of a 10-year $6.8 billion allocation.

In past years, funding for roads had been separated into regional and city areas, but the state’s Department of Transport now allocates funding on a priority basis between both, allowing for easier redirecting of funds.

Current maintenance to regional roads is being funded from last year’s budget.

Mr Walsh was critical of the 10-year scheme.

“They keep talking about the six billion over the next 10 years that is not accounted for anywhere; these are promises on the never-never,” he said.

“We don’t need potholes fixed in nine years; we need them fixed now.”

Where the money went

Biosecurity for the agriculture sector featured in last week’s state budget with $85 million allocated to protecting farmers from pest and weed incursions and risks.

Most of that money will be focused on fire ants, with $73 million dedicated to help keep the invasive insect out of the agriculture and tourist industries in Victoria.

The EPA has been allocated $44 million to crack down on illegal rubbish dumping and other waste crimes.

State and national parks have been boosted by $17 million, which includes supporting volunteer and community groups.

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