This time last year we were breathing sighs of relief that 2020 was over and merrily predicting 2021 would be better. It had to be.
The past year was in many respects tougher than 2020 as COVID-19 up-ended our lives again. First, the Delta variant and more recently Omicron forced significant changes to the way we lived and the way governments influenced our existence.
Restrictions, lockdowns and vaccination mandates dominated the year in ways we hope we never experience again.
As we wake up to a new year, it's impossible to be confident about 2022. COVID-19 will again present challenges but like we did this year, we should draw strength from the resilience and patience showed in the past to get through and carve out rewarding lives.
While the pandemic leaves us apprehensive about 2022, there's plenty to look forward to.
We are due to go to the polls at both federal and state level this year. Will there be a COVID-19 backlash that changes the Canberra and Spring Street political landscapes?
Regardless of those results, the south-west needs to be prominent in parties' thinking. At state level, South West Coast became a marginal seat four years ago and the government will no doubt spruik its record of commiting $384m to redevelop Warrnambool Base Hospital, investments in rail, public housing and education infrastructure.
The federal government will remind us of its investments in roads, rail and the city's university campus.
But roads, rail and public housing benefits are yet to be delivered with Princes Highway upgrades in limbo two years after funding was announced and work unlikely to start until 2023.
Faster trains are unlikely to run on the Warrnambool line until 2024 at the earliest as delayed track and signalling upgrades worth $510 million continue.
But Warrnambool is growing, the region seemingly thriving despite the impacts of COVID shutdowns, yet there are real challenges that threaten our economy and social fabric. We have a worker shortage and lack of affordable housing.
We need real investment in public housing, the state's $25 million will make a dent when projects are finalised, but more will be needed.
Mental health, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, roads and the city's breakwater will also need real investments.
The tourism industry, set to benefit from a new visitor centre at the Twelve Apostles, will also need a boost as it emerges from COVID's shadow.
It will be exciting to see the city's $10m revamped Reid Oval opened, progress on the city's library and learning hub and physical work start on the hospital redevelopment. The city though has big decisions to make about the future of AquaZone and Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum while Moyne and Corangamite shires will be lobbying for cash for major streetscape works.
Collectively there is plenty to be bullish about. Individually though, 2022 will most likely start slowly as we continue to hopefully regain freedoms from COVID.
From the team at The Standard, we wish you and your family good health and happiness in 2022. You deserve it.
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