Funds like a mirage

May 12, 2018

The long-awaited, much-needed Shepparton bypass may have missed out in this year’s Federal Budget.

But a strategic roads fund that was included may yet prove an expressway to funding for the $1.3billion project in future years.

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe was disappointed the city was overlooked.

But chief executive Peter Harriott said the looming state and federal election cycles would hold valuable opportunities to pitch for funding.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum meanwhile confirmed the Federal Government’s strategic roads fund was a good fit for the project to seek support through.

‘‘We are disappointed, we were certainly hoping for some funding,’’ Cr O’Keeffe said.

‘‘We know there’s a need for this infrastructure ... How long do we have to wait?’’ she asked.

The mayor stressed the council would continue to lobby, given it was ‘‘desperate for it to happen sooner, not later’’, and that the CBD was seeing ‘‘more trucks on a daily basis’’.

‘‘I don’t think this message is being heard loud enough.

‘‘Obviously we don’t feel we’ve been included.’’

The Council recently requested $260million for the construction of stage one of the bypass in its endorsed ‘‘ask of government’’ document.

In last year’s Victorian budget, $10million was allocated for planning and pre-construction works for the long-awaited 36km project’s first stage.

The goal of the broader $1.3billion, decade-spanning project is to draw B-double trucks away from Shepparton’s CBD to ensure safer passage, boost productivity and improve passage of products to domestic and export markets.

The project has been split into stages, with the council’s stage 1 ask of $260million for the first 10km encompassing Midland Hwy to Echuca-Mooroopna Rd to Goulburn Valley Hwy.

Mr Harriott believed the $3.5billion for a Roads of Strategic Importance initiative upgrading key freight routes in the Federal Budget held a prime opportunity for bypass funding.

He said he was keen to work with relevant authorities to complete the business case ‘‘happening this year’’.

‘‘And then collectively work through any funding opportunity to really push for the first stage of the bypass,’’ he said.

Mr Harriott described the fund as a ‘‘promising announcement’’, adding the council would be pitching the project across both the upcoming state and federal election cycles.

Mr Drum agreed the fund was a fit for the bypass project.

He understood there was still ‘‘a heap of work to do before coming to Feds for funding’’.

But added that ‘‘at least we know we have a fund for projects like this’’.

‘‘It will all come down to, how well does this project stack up ...’’

‘‘When the state has done the work, hopefully we’ll be in a position to start lobbying fair and square,’’ he said.

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