South-west representatives have welcomed news that the successful lease of the Port of Melbourne will provide a cash boost close to $1 billion to regional and rural areas of Victoria.
The state government announced 10 per cent of the proceeds from the 50-year lease of the port, which is worth $9.7 billion, would go towards regional and rural infrastructure projects.
“We promised that we would lease the Port of Melbourne, while ensuring our regional and rural communities get the support and funding they need to prosper and that’s exactly what we are doing,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“We are putting people first with dedicated funding from the lease going to regional and rural Victoria, helping to create jobs and ensure our state stays number one for food and fibre.”
The proceeds will be used to benefit the agriculture sector through areas including irrigation, transport, energy projects, skills development programs and market access campaigns, and a $200 million Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund will also be set up to help drive economic growth.
Great South Coast Group chairman Colin Ryan said the announcement was a good result for country Victoria.
“I look forward to it being spent on roads and other major infrastructure that will benefit all of country Victoria,’ he said.
Mr Ryan said it was only fair that regional and rural areas should receive a portion of the proceeds because a significant amount of product comes out of regions such as the south-west.
“It was country Victoria that made the Port of Melbourne what it is today,” he said.
Corangamite Shire councillor Chris O’Connor, who previously spoke out on the issue, welcomed the news and said he hoped it would be spent improving roads in the south-west.
“A lot of our product goes through the port so I think it’s only reasonable that part of the money should be put into logistics around getting freight to the port,” Cr O’Connor said.
“There’s no better suggestion than improving the Princes Highway west of Colac.”
Cr O’Connor said he was pleasantly surprised by the final figure for the lease.
“It will be a good influx of money, so hopefully it goes into capital infrastructure and not just into marginal seats,” he said.
“We want something that brings efficiency to our industries to make us more competitive.”
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell also reacted positively to the news, and said the south-west punches well above its weight in supplying goods exported through the port.
She called for some of the money to be spent on road and rail in the region.
‘It’s not negotiable – a good chunk of this money must be spent on repairing and improving road and rail infrastructure in this region,” Mrs Britnell said.
She said the opposition had amended the original proposal for the lease of the port to ensure regional areas would be guaranteed a share of the funds.
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the announcement was “a fantastic result for agriculture”.
“The investment will help grow our economy by keeping our farmers and export supply chains competitive, which is all the more necessary as we’re seeing a decline in manufacturing,” he said.
Mr Jochinke said the agriculture sector needed investment in projects including irrigation modernisation, pipelines to secure water for livestock producers, freight rail line upgrades and the elimination of mobile phone black spots.