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Budget 2019/20 delivers for Central Highlands as Partnership outlines strategic focus


The Victorian Government’s 2019/ 20 Budget delivers for the Central Highlands region, including $10 million for the restoration of Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat, as part of a $2.6 billion Delivering for Regional and Rural Victoria program.

Central Highlands Regional Partnership Chair George Fong today welcomed the Budget, which provides a whole of government focus on delivering for rural and regional Victorians, with improvements across the state to public transport, country roads, tourism infrastructure and TAFE facilities, and provides health facility upgrades while supporting jobs. The Budget provides further tax relief for rural and regional businesses, with the regional payroll tax rate to be reduced to 25 per cent of the metropolitan rate by 2022-23.

In the Central Highlands specifically, as well as the boost for Her Majesty’s Theatre, there is:

  • $100 million for the Western Rail Plan to reduce crowding, support population growth and enable fast rail on the Ballarat line,
  • A commitment to the provision of free public wi-fi in Ararat in areas where there are key community facilities and tourist attractions, and
  • Funding for properties in Ballarat to support Victorians escaping violence and homelessness.

“There are a number of important investments for the Central Highlands region in the Budget which match the Partnership’s priorities which is great to see,” explains Mr Fong, but he adds that the Regional Partnership is about much more than securing funding at Budget time. He explains that over the past year, the Partnership has worked with the Victorian Government to develop a Central Highlands Digital Plan, while it is also working with local and state Governments to develop a Roadmap to Zero Emissions as part of the Grampians New Energy Taskforce (GNET). The Partnership has also advocated for the Ballarat Innovation and Research Collaboration (BIRCH), which received $300,000 from the Regional Skills Fund in October 2018.

In addition, Partnership priorities funded in previous Victorian Budgets, for example, the Prevention Lab, a community-based project to encourage healthy eating and active living in the Central Highlands, are now taking shape. Working with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Regional Development Victoria (RDV), a business case has been developed for the project and Phase 2 has now kicked off, led by Health Futures Australia, working with local leaders to embed prevention initiatives into business-as-usual practices for the region.

Mr Fong says the Partnership - one of nine across the state - is now in its third year and is evolving. Last week the Partnership published its Outcomes Roadmap, which outlines its key, long-term strategic areas of focus and where it is looking to make a real difference.

“This year, as part of the natural evolution of our Partnership, rather than running a large Assembly, we are in the process of identifying a few key issues where we will run smaller, targeted meetings,” he explains.

“At these forums, the Partnership will engage with community, key stakeholders and Government, in a more decisive, focused and strategic way in order to make a substantial difference in a specific area. The issues we address will mirror the outcomes we are striving to achieve, and we’ll let the community know about these areas of focus shortly via our Facebook page.”

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