The Victorian Farmers Federation is the latest lobby group to join the Princes Highway upgrade push, urging the state government to pitch in to enable regional Victoria to lead the state out of its economic woes due to the coronavirus.
For about 18 months a federal government pledge of $140 million for Princes Highway upgrades in the south-west has sat untouched waiting for the state government to fund its share.
Despite lobbying and pressure from government and business, the state government has refused to commit to the projects, $60 million of which would be used to upgrade a section of the highway at Illowa.
VFF president David Jochinke said despite the challenges agriculture and the regions continued to face, regional Victoria had the opportunity to lead the state's economic recovery as COVID-19 restrictions eased.
"As farmers, we're still awaiting the Agriculture Workers' Code to be implemented and have very real concerns of the impact on our livestock industry in the midst of restrictions placed on our meat processing facilities," he said.
"We do however have a once in a generation opportunity to revive regional Victoria and help lead the state from its economic woes.
"Of course our health must always remain our top priority and we need to ensure we continue practising COVID-safe measures, but we also need to look forward to the future."
The VFF is calling for a change in government thinking and policy to enable the regions to be a vehicle for economic growth and investment in critical infrastructure.
That includes the Princes Highway upgrade west of Colac to the South Australian border to not only help agriculture but pump cash into south-west Victoria and give the region better infrastructure to enable people to live in country zones post-coronavirus.
"Regional Victoria is in a much more advanced stage of COVID recovery than Melbourne. Now is the opportunity for governments to invest in the regions to help power Victoria's economic recovery," Mr Jochinke said.
"There's an undeniable city and country divide in infrastructure and services such as roads, rail, telecommunications, health and education.
"If can we can get commitment from government to deliver a standard for all Victorians, the liveability of the regions will attract community and economic growth."
"Our message to the Victorian and federal governments is the regions can't wait for Melbourne to catch up. The time to entice growth in the regions and help us recover is now.
"COVID-19 has shown the resilience of regional Victoria. The upside of getting the regions up and running initially is enormous, not just for agriculture, but for Victoria as a whole.
"The longer we wait to do this, the longer the road we have to economic recovery."
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