TIME FOR OUR SHARE: Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel is pictured with Richmond Football Club head of football, Neil Balme, late last year at the proposed site of the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct, with the Tigers throwing their support behind the project.

By VINNIE RODI

MILDURA Rural City Council is taking action ahead of November’s Victorian election, demanding the State’s political parties ensure that the Mildura Future Ready (MFR) initiative gets off the ground.

Mildura Councillors resolved on Wednesday night to write to political parties contesting the upcoming Victorian election, requesting a $19million funding commitment be made towards the first phase of MFR.

MFR aims to improve employment, health and well-being across the Mildura Local Government Area, while also attracting and retaining jobs and diversity for Mildura’s population.

It also aims to create more resilient and growing tourism, and increase transport connectivity through the delivery of four key projects – the Mildura Motorsport and Community Precinct (MMCP), the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP), the second stage of the Mildura Riverfront redevelopment and the return of Mildura’s passenger rail services.

The first phase of MFR focuses on stage one of the MMCP, and the MSRSP, and requires a combination of Federal, State, ratepayer and private funding to proceed.

Council has currently applied for funding under two separate Federal Government grants, and is awaiting confirmation as to whether or not those applications will be successful.

In total Council requires $28.4million in Federal funding, $19million in State funding and $1.4million in private investment to push ahead with the first phase of MFR, while also contributing $8million of its own funds.

Once fully implemented, the MMCP will create 397 direct and 488 indirect jobs, and result in ongoing economic benefit estimated at $1.23billion (based on 30-year impact modelling).

The MSRSP will create 151 direct and 187 indirect jobs, resulting in ongoing economic benefit from operations estimated at $245.54million value-added over 30 years.

Council’s decision to press both sides of government for an election commitment comes after the recent 2018/19 Victorian Budget failed to provide any financial support for MFR projects.

According to a report tabled to Councillors ahead of Wednesday’s decision, Mildura is experiencing a prolonged period of economic transition resulting from the “traditionally strong” industries of horticulture, agriculture and manufacturing undergoing “a significant adjustment period.”

“This is contributing to high levels of economic and social disadvantage, and poor levels of regional growth relative to the Victorian average,” the report reads. “As a rural community we have inherent issues that contribute to a higher than normal level of social disadvantage.”

According to recent socio-economic indexes for areas (ABS 2016), Mildura is currently ranked in the top five most disadvantaged communities in Victoria. This unwanted status has also been confirmed by a number of social research studies undertaken by Council.

Since the adoption of the MFR Funding and Advocacy Strategy at Council’s August 2017 meeting, various consultations and advocacy meetings have been held with both State and Federal government representatives.

This has included presentations to Ministerial portfolio-holders in both Melbourne and Canberra, as well as presentations at a local level to visiting Members of Parliament.

Several government ministers, including Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Jaala Pulford, have publicly expressed their approval of MFR, however no major government funding has been forthcoming.

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp this week said that he had met with Council several times to discuss the organisation’s priorities, saying that the motion put forward this week was “a formalisation of Council’s ongoing process concerning Mildura Future Ready.”

However Mr Crisp did not comment on whether the State Coalition would be committing to any MFR funding promises in the lead-up to November’s State Election.

“The Coalition will be making announcements about my vision for the future in due course,”  he said.