The region's childcare crisis shows no sign of easing, with hundreds of children on waiting lists and families forced to wait 18 months for a place.
The Standard first reported the unprecedented demand for childcare places in mid-2021 and almost two years later the staggering numbers and wait times remain due to a lack of south-west staff and centres.
This week the crisis reached a tipping point when one of Warrnambool's largest centres locked the door on families because it had reached its capacity.
Parents were told Koala Childcare and Early Learning Centre may need to pause enrolment for some children of non-working families until they were able to recruit more educators.
Despite the surging demand, two new childcare centres in Warrnambool are yet-to-be constructed due to pandemic-related cost increases and other factors.
Plans to build a new childcare centre on Dales Road were given the seal of approval by Warrnambool City councillors who hoped the 150-place centre would help address the backlog of 300 children on the waiting list.
But the centre will need to employ 40 staff.
BNAA group spokesperson said the process was taking longer than expected and hoped to open mid-2024.
The spokesperson said construction costs had jumped 30 per cent since pre-COVID-19.
"It's significant money. We're talking millions of dollars. We've got to find that," he said.
Construction of a 124-place centre in Verdon Street is expected to begin "in the coming months" with 23 staff needed.
The project was pushed back from 2021 and later scheduled to open mid-2022. Its opening was further delayed to early 2023, yet the site remains vacant.
The Standard was told in January 2023 its construction had been pushed back again because of ongoing issues with availability, cost of materials and contractors.
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said he was meeting with the Glenelg Shire mayor and CEO on Monday because they too had serious issues with childcare shortages.
In June 2022, a working group was formed in Warrnambool to help address the situation and it was looking to use the Designated Area Migration Agreement to attract staff from overseas.
However, he said he recently found out that anyone coming to regional areas under the DAMA program had gone to the bottom of the list.
"There was a decision made before Christmas, which we found out in Senate estimates, which had dropped us back down. Country people weren't given the priority of city areas. It's unbelievable," he said.
"Anyone who is bringing childcare workers in needs to be expedited."
But Mr Tehan said the region needed more childcare centres, and all levels of government needed to work together to get that outcome.
He called for red-tape to be cut to speed-up the opening of new centres.
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