Productive meeting

By Benalla Ensign

The Nationals hosted a round-table discussion with mayors and local government councilors from across Northern Victoria in Benalla last week.

Nationals leader Peter Walsh joined Member for Euroa Steph Ryan and Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy at BPACC to discuss decentralisation.

Mr Walsh said the discussions were productive with a number of issues raised.

‘‘One of the take-out messages I have is around planning issues,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘There was a planning flying squad that we had while we were in government and we talked about reinstating that in some form.

‘‘We also discussed the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the culture of the EPA.

‘‘Like a lot of other government departments I’m a great believer that if you’ve actually got decision makers living in the region where those decisions have impact you’ll have better decision making.

‘‘That message regarding the EPA equally applies to a lot of other state government bodies and I’d like to see more decision making actually done in the regions where the impacts of those decisions are felt, rather than elevating everything to Melbourne.

‘‘There were also issue around untied grants, which were discussed, and issues around respect between the two levels of government.

‘‘There needs to be better respect from the state government to local government for the role they fulfil in their communities.

‘‘You get the best outcome particularly if the three levels of government are on the same page around funding.

‘‘Some of the best projects are partnerships between all three levels of government.’’

State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said as leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for decentralisation Mr Walsh would now use the information gained from these discussions in order to develop policy heading into the November election.

‘‘There were lots of good ideas and issues that came out of today’s round-table meeting,’’ Ms Ryan said.

Benalla Mayor Don Firth was in the meeting and said he was pleased Mr Walsh was there to listen to what members of local government had to say.

‘‘It was an open and frank discussion and he (Peter) definitely took out the main points that were mentioned, and a couple of others,’’ Cr Firth said.

‘‘The message got through and it’s always good to see a shadow minister or minister turn up and actually listen. I think it was very productive.’’