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Baw Baw Shire and several other councils face potential $8.5M annual loss from being excluded from Growing Suburbs Fund

Baw Baw Shire $2 million annual loss after exclusion from Growing Suburbs Fund, impacting community projects and urgent infrastructure needs.

By news@gippsland - 8th September 2023 - Back to News

With the impacts of the Victorian government's decision to exclude Peri Urban Councils from the Growing Suburbs Fund still reverberating, it is estimated the potential loss to Baw Baw Shire residents could top more than $2 million per year. Working within the restrictions of rate capping, cost shifting from other levels of government to council, and amidst unprecedented population growth.

Totaling about $8.5 million, the annual funding averaged $2.7 million since council's access to the fund, this deficit affects infrastructure planning

Totaling about $8.5 million, the annual funding averaged $2.7 million since council's access to the fund, this deficit affects infrastructure planning

Baw Baw Shire's GSF success

Baw Baw Shire has recently relied on the Growing Suburbs Fund (GSF) for the delivery of numerous community infrastructure projects, including:

  • Longwarry Early Learning Centre ($500,000)
  • Bellbird Park East, Drouin Multi-use Pavilion ($2 million)
  • Baw Baw Culture and Connection Precinct Stage One - Library and Learning Centre ($3.5 million)
  • Rollo Street, Yarragon - Community Open Space Project ($1.53 million)
  • Queens Street, Warragul Streetscape Project ($673,000)

Totalling approximately $8.5 million, the average annual funding amount since council gained access to the fund has been around $2.7 million. That shortfall may have significant impacts as council reexamines its Long Term Infrastructure Plan in the wake of the decision.

Challenges ahead for Baw Baw

Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Cr Annemarie McCabe, "With Baw Baw Shire Council and other Peri Urban Councils now excluded from eligibility we are bracing for funding impacts to a number of priority projects and service areas. The Victorian government's reforms to 3 and 4-year-old kindergarten are seeing demand for early years infrastructure skyrocketing in Baw Baw."

"We are predicting that we will need an additional 1000 spaces in the next few years. While the Victorian government's Building Blocks program will provide some funding, the GSF has been considered an important additional funding stream to make up shortfalls and allow the rapid expansion we are required to deliver - and which the youngest members of our community need.," Ms McCabe said.

Other projects on the near horizon which may be impacted by the Peri Urban exclusion include a planned Weebar Road Sporting Precinct in Drouin and pavilions at Longwarry, Neerim South and Western Park in Warragul.

Peri-Urban Council's concerns

Deputy Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Cr Michael Leaney, also Chair of Peri Urban Councils Victoria, says that council is seeking a response from the Victorian government in the wake of the decision. "The purpose of the Growing Suburbs Fund has been to support council's experiencing significant population growth."

"Well, Baw Baw and our fellow Peri Urban Councils are amongst the fastest growing regions in the state. Without any warning or explanation, an arbitrary line drawn on a map in Spring Street may amount to millions in crucial funding lost to our community each year."

"As a council, we are unified in calling on the Victorian government to either reconsider its decision or establish a new fund for Peri Urban Councils to replace the funding opportunity we have lost, complete with a clean definition of what constitutes Peri Urban regions so that funding lines cannot be moved on a whim in the future," says Cr Leaney.

Pictures from Baw Baw Shire Council website.


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