Press Releases

Coalition Government ensures Gippsland passenger rail services stay on track

* * - Friday, August 22, 2014


• $8.3 million investment to improve crossing safety on the Gippsland line
• Axle counters to be installed at 32 level crossing east of Traralgon
• Victorian Coalition Government is building a better rail network

An $8.3 million upgrade of level crossing safety on the Gippsland train line has reached an important milestone with the completion of a successful trial of newly installed axle counter technology that will ensure trains stay on track east of Traralgon.

Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan was joined today by The Nationals Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull and The Nationals Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester to inspect the new axle counters.

“I am pleased to announce the active trial of axle counter technology here in Gippsland is a success and it will be implemented on all 32 level crossings between Traralgon and Bairnsdale,” Mr Ryan said.

“The axle counters will supersede the track circuits, currently used to detect trains at automated level crossings, which were affected by corrosion,” Mr Ryan said.

“This $8.3 million major safety upgrade will future-proof automated rail crossings on the Gippsland line, with the installation spanning 110km of track.

“The Victorian Coalition Government has invested a total of $28 million on new infrastructure on the Gippsland line over the past four years, this is in addition to the millions spent on maintenance of the line.

“We have kept our promise to the community to deliver these enhanced safety systems and will continue to prioritise safety on the rail network,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Bull said the axle counters would trigger new automated crossings with flashing lights, warning bells or boom gates.

“The axle counters detect the number of wheels on a train approaching a level crossing and compares that with the number of wheels when the train passes through the crossing,” Mr Bull said.

Mr Bull said in addition to the $8.3 million works program, automated level crossing ugrades will be undertaken at Myrtle Bank Road, Sale, Flynns Creek Road, Rosedale, and Upper Flynns Creek Road Traralgon.

“As part of the Princes Highway duplication, the Coalition Government will install traffic lights and a roundabout at Minniedale Road near Traralgon with the works to be integrated with improvements to the train line,” Mr Bull said.

“The Minniedale Road level crossing will be upgraded and fitted with axle counters, further boosting safety for rail users, motorists and pedestrians.”

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said axle counters would improve rail safety and reliability on the Gippsland line.

“Thanks to this investment, we will not have a repeat of the situation where corrosion affected the reliability of level crossing warning systems and required the closure of the Gippsland line for months,” Mr Chester said.

“The temporary closure reinforced the importance of the ‘Gippslander’ services east of Traralgon and I’m delighted the Victorian Government has taken further steps to reduce disruptions on the Gippsland line.”

Media contact: Kate Lancaster 0428 921 404

Upgraded Bairnsdale Aerodrome provides vital transport link for East Gippsland

* * - Friday, August 22, 2014


  • Bairnsdale Aerodrome officially reopens after a $1.8 million upgrade
  • Project improves important transport link for East Gippsland
  • Regional Growth Fund delivers $1.6 million for the project

A $1.8 million upgrade to the Bairnsdale Aerodrome that has improved access and safety for businesses and emergency services has been opened by the Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan.

Mr Ryan was joined by the Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull to officially open the upgraded facility which received funding of $1.6 million from the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.

“Bairnsdale Aerodrome’s facilities support a number of commercial aviation enterprises including corporate charter and aircraft fleet maintenance,” Mr Ryan said.

“The aerodrome is an important asset to local companies such as Patties Foods, which flies staff to and from Melbourne when required.

“The facility is used daily for the transportation of bank documents and is also used for the transfer of paperwork to the courts.

“The aerodrome is a key transport link to the remotest corner of the region and as such is particularly important for emergency services.

“It is used by the fixed wing air-ambulance services and by volunteer patient transport service Angel Flight.

“The Bairnsdale Regional Health Service regularly flies allied health staff from the aerodrome to remote far East Gippsland to provide outreach services for patients.

“The Department of Primary Industries uses this facility to transport fire-fighting staff to and from their nearby airstrip,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Bull said that the Bairnsdale Aerodrome Upgrade project was overseen by the East Gippsland Shire.

“I am advised by the council that the project involved the development of the commercial and private hangar precinct, that rehabilitation works were carried out on the north and east taxiway, and that lighting has been upgraded,” Mr Bull said.

“A new 10,000 litre fuelling facility made up of 5,000 litres of AVGAS and 5000 litres of jet fuel has been installed during the upgrade.”

Mr Bull said upgrading the aerodrome has helped address the current and future needs of stakeholders and will attract more commercial and private companies to the site.

Mr Bull said funding for the Bairnsdale Aerodrome upgrade had been managed under the Regional Growth Fund since 2011.

“This project is an example of the Victorian Coalition Government’s commitment to invest in community-led initiatives, while strategically driving jobs, investment and innovation in rural and regional Victoria,” Mr Bull said.

“The Regional Growth Fund has delivered almost $430 million, generating over $1.7 billion in total investment across 1,500 projects.”

Media contact: Kate Lancaster 0428 921 404

Regional Victoria Living Expo teams with First National Real Estate

* * - Wednesday, August 13, 2014


  • First National Real Estate to sponsor the 2015 Regional Victoria Living Expo
  • Deputy Premier confirms dates for 2015 event
  • Expo encourages Melburnians to make the ‘Good Move’ to regional and rural Victoria

Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan announced today that the Victorian Coalition Government had secured First National Real Estate as the major sponsor of the 2015 Regional Victoria Living Expo.

Mr Ryan, who was in Wangaratta and the North East today for multiple Regional Growth Fund announcements, also confirmed the dates of the 2015 Expo, to be held over three days from Friday 1 to Sunday 3 May at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Mr Ryan said First National Real Estate’s ongoing support was further proof of the success of the Coalition Government’s Regional Victoria Living Expo, which continues to grow from strength to strength.

“First National Real Estate were a founding sponsor of the Regional Victoria Living Expo, which was first held in 2012, and I am pleased to see they are back again in 2015,” Mr Ryan said.

“I want to congratulate First National Real Estate for its ongoing commitment to the Expo and thank them for the fantastic support they have provided at each of the past three Expos.”

Mr Ryan said the fourth Regional Victoria Living Expo would build on the success of this year’s event, which attracted almost 10,000 visitors to learn more about career, housing, health and lifestyle opportunities available in regional and rural Victoria.

“Melburnians who attended this year’s Expo were either those looking to make the ‘Good Move’ to regional Victoria, whether that be a tree change or a sea change, or those simply wanting to learn more about what’s on offer in our many and varied regions,” Mr Ryan said.

“Visitors had access to 147 exhibitions including the state’s 48 regional and rural councils, prominent regional businesses, community and sports organisations and representatives from various Victorian Government agencies.

“The success of this year’s Expo has been built upon by many of our regional and rural councils who have since hosted open days, with individuals, couples and families spending a day or a weekend learning more about these communities.

“Councils to have hosted open days include Yarriambiack, Murrindindi, East Gippsland, Pyrenees, Benalla, Southern Grampians, Benalla, Swan Hill and Corangamite, providing Melburnians with the chance to meet locals and learn about the magnificent property, businesses and lifestyle opportunities available in these communities.”

Mr Ryan also encouraged regional and rural businesses and community groups to get involved in the 2015 Regional Victoria Living Expo.

“Regional businesses and community groups have plenty to gain by participating in the Expo which has become a valuable marketing tool to attract new residents to regional and rural communities,” Mr Ryan said.

“Councils, businesses and community groups can also use the Expo to attract specific professions, occupations, or businesses to their area, or to promote tourism in their region.”

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government was committed to growing regional and rural Victoria, and the Regional Victoria Living Expo was an example of that commitment.

“The Nationals, as part of a strong Coalition Government team, understand that when the regions prosper the whole state prospers,” Mr Ryan said.

“We will continue to support regional and rural Victoria through initiatives such as the Regional Victoria Living Expo, our $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, or through our other job creating, community building initiatives.”

Mr Ryan said more information on the 2015 Regional Victoria Living Expo was available online at

Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0437 547 731

Coalition delivering cheaper water bills

* * - Friday, June 27, 2014

  • Victorian Coalition Government delivering cheaper water bills
  • Savings of up to $36 per year for the next four years
  • Coalition Government driving down cost of living pressures

Homeowners, tenants and landlords in Sale, Rosedale, Stratford, Maffra and Heyfield will save up to $36 on their water bills each year for the next four years thanks to the Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government‟s Fairer Water Bills initiative.

Deputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan welcomed the savings which have been achieved by Gippsland Water cutting back on office waste and unnecessary red tape.

“Gippsland households have frustratingly come to expect that their water bills will keep rising each and every year,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Coalition Government has said „enough is enough‟ and asked water corporations to find savings.

“I am pleased to announce that for the next four years Gippsland Water will provide rebates of $26 a year to all customers paying water service charges and $10 a year to customers paying water use charges.

“This means that owner-occupiers will receive a total $36 saving off their annual water bills, tenants will save $10, and landlords will save $26.”

Mr Ryan said all residential customers of South Gippsland Water were eligible to receive the savings, which would be delivered through a yearly one-off rebate applied to all residential water customers‟ accounts from 1 July 2014.

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government was committed to driving down cost of living pressures and the Fairer Water Bills initiative was delivering real savings for household budgets.

“The Coalition Government asked Gippsland Water to identify ways it could help customers save on their water bills without compromising on service,” Mr Ryan said.

“Gippsland Water highlighted a number of cost saving measures, which included a reduction in the use of external consultants, better collaboration with local government and other agencies, and streamlining of internal processes.”

Gippsland Water Chairman Richard McDowell said the organisation was happy to pass on savings to its customers as it would help to ease some of the pressure on household budgets.

“We‟ve been able to identify some projects and internal processes which will have a positive impact on our bottom line through the Fairer Water Bills initiative and we will continue to examine how we do business to keep downward pressure on customer‟s bills,” Mr McDowell said.

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

$12 million on offer to Engage young locals

* * - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  • Victorian Coalition Government invests $12 million to help young Victorians reach their potential
  • Program initiatives include volunteering, mentoring and real life skills
  • Local organisations can apply for up to $150,000

Deputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan today announced that the Victorian Coalition Government would invest $12 million into the Engage program to help young Victorians build skills needed for life after school.

Mr Ryan said the Engage program offered grants of up to $150,000 to local community organisations and councils to help young people become more involved with their local communities.

“The funding will support organisations and councils to deliver a wide range of initiatives including volunteering and mentoring programs, and projects that boost real-life skills and connect young people to further education, training or careers,” Mr Ryan said.

“Through these projects, young people have the opportunity to become more connected to their community, become engaged in education, training and career pathways and have an opportunity to build their networks.

“The program provides local groups with the practical resources they need to listen, respond and create opportunities for young Gippslanders so that they can fulfil their potential,” Mr Ryan said.

“I urge local groups to submit an Engage grant application to enable them to conduct programs to engage younger members of their communities and help them to build skills that they can use in future community service ventures and employment.”

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government’s $12 million 2015 - 2017 Engage program was another example of this government’s commitment to providing young Victorians with more opportunities to become involved in their communities.

“Since 2012, more than 100,000 young Victorians have been involved in Engage, highlighting the success of the program,” Mr Ryan said.

Minister for Youth Affairs Ryan Smith encouraged organisations to reach out to young people in the community and work with them to develop innovative projects that could be eligible for an Engage grant.

“Through this Coalition Government program, Victoria’s young people will have access to fantastic initiatives that help develop new skills and networks,” Mr Smith said.

The Engage program is part of the Coalition Government’s Youth Statement, Engage, Involve, Create that outlines its vision for young Victorians.

Applications close on Friday 1 August 2014. For more information or to apply, visit

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

New $2.7 million Australian Sustainable Hardwoods expansion opens

* * - Friday, June 13, 2014

  • Deputy Premier opens $2.7 million expansion at ASH Heyfield mill
  • Expansion creates 27 full-time jobs and secures a further 190 jobs at the mill
  • Victorian Coalition Government invested $650,000 to support expansion

A $2.7 million expansion and upgrade to Victoria’s largest hardwood saw mill, Australian Sustainable Hardwoods at Heyfield, has secured the future of the mill, provided a local alternative to imported products and created 27 new full-time jobs.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan joined Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull and Member for Eastern Victoria Region Danny O’Brien in Heyfield to celebrate completion of the $2.7 million ASH’s Value Adding/Expansion Project.

Mr Ryan said the expansion was made possible thanks to a $650,000 investment from the Victorian Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.

Mr Ryan said the project included the purchase and installation of a new horizontal finger joiner, an extension to the current finger joining and laminating facility, the establishment of a hard stand site, and new equipment for the joiner line.

“ASH currently produces a range of high quality manufactured timber products, such as window and door frames, door stiles and flooring – products which have traditionally been imported,” Mr Ryan said.

“To help ASH successfully compete against imported products, a more efficient and expanded production process was needed.

“With efficiencies now achieved, ASH is able to produce timber products locally which have previously been imported, and are in a position to begin exporting these products to international markets.

“This significant investment has secured the future of ASH in Heyfield and paves the way for further investments at the mill to achieve even greater efficiencies.”

Mr Bull said today was a great day for the employees of ASH and the local timber industry more broadly.

“Australian Sustainable Hardwoods is the primary recipient of high-quality logs in Gippsland and the ongoing operations at the Heyfield mill are critical to the viability of our forest industry,” Mr Bull said.

“This significant investment not only created 27 full-time jobs and six new indirect jobs, but also secured the jobs of ASH’s existing 190 employees.

“The investment is also a major win for businesses in Heyfield and surrounding communities who rely on a strong and profitable timber industry both directly and indirectly.”

Mr O’Brien said the investment was yet another success story for the Coalition Government’s job creating $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.

“The Regional Growth Fund is investing in projects right across Gippsland to create jobs, secure investment and boost innovation,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Since it was established in 2011, the Regional Growth Fund has delivered more than $400 million, generating well over $1.6 billion of total investment across almost 1500 projects.”

“This includes more than $7 million of investment in the Wellington Shire to support 40 projects and more than $23 million of total leveraged investment.

“Here in Heyfield, the Regional Growth Fund has also invested $150,000 to support the $275,000 redevelopment of Apex Park and a further $100,000 to support the $135,000 upgrade of the Heyfield section of the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail.”

Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0437 547 731

New Sale Specialist School now one step closer

* * - Friday, June 13, 2014

  • Victorian Coalition Government committed to building a new Sale Specialist School
  • $4m provided in State Budget for planning and Stage 1 construction
  • Member for Gippsland South announces settlement of land for new school

Deputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan today visited Sale Specialist School to announce that the land purchased for the new school had now settled.

Mr Ryan said the land settlement of the four-hectare Princes Highway site in Sale’s north was an exciting day for the school community with the realisation of the new school now one step closer.

“Today’s announcement progresses the Victorian Liberal National Coalition Government’s commitment to providing a new school for students and teachers of Sale Specialist School,” Mr Ryan said.

“In last month’s Victorian Budget, the Coalition Government provided an initial $4 million for planning and design, and to deliver stage one works.

“The total cost of the project is anticipated to be in the order of $15 million.”

Mr Ryan said the finalised land purchase and $4 million commitment from the Coalition Government meant that planning for a new school would begin shortly.

“Due to rising enrolments, the Sale Specialist School has had to expand beyond its Raymond Street campus to include a senior campus within the grounds of Sale College,” Mr Ryan said.

“Having two campuses is a less than ideal situation, however these Coalition Government commitments mean that the Sale Specialist School community can look forward to a new school in the very near future.”

While at the school, Mr Ryan presented awards to students of the leadership team, including the school and campus captains and members of the student representative council.

“It’s great to be here today to present these leadership awards and recognise the magnificent effort made by these student leaders to assist fellow students,” Mr Ryan said.

“Students who demonstrate leadership qualities while at school often go on to be strong leaders within the community, so I’m pleased that these students are being rewarded by their peers and school community.”

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

Sale leader awarded a women’s scholarship

* * - Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Local Christina Rush awarded leadership scholarship
  • Scholarship finds leadership course worth more than $7000
  • More than 179 applicants applied to Coalition Government

Gippsland Women’s Health Service board member Christina Rush has been awarded one of 34 Women’s Governance Scholarships from the Victorian Liberal National Coalition Government.

Deputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan said the Coalition Government was proud to provide opportunities for local women to enhance their leadership skills by participating in the scholarship.

Mr Ryan said since 2012, the Victorian Coalition Government had been making scholarships available to women currently serving on boards of not-for-profit organisations that receive State Government funding.

“These scholarships are intended to professionally develop women serving on community boards in order to facilitate their expansion into more senior community leadership roles,” Mr Ryan said.

“The program provides a full-fee payment for the successful applicants to undertake the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Company Directors Course, as well as a 12 month membership of the Institute.”

Mr Ryan said the total cost for an individual to undertake the course would be more than $7,000, which can make it unaffordable for a great number of women.

“Ms Rush, of Maffra, is an active leader in the Gippsland community and is currently serving on the board of Gippsland Women’s Health Service, a position she has held since 2011,” Mr Ryan said.

“Ms Rush has a long association within the nursing and health care field and won the State Nursing Excellence and Commitment Award in 2004.”

Minister for Women’s Affairs Heidi Victoria said she was impressed by the quality of the applicants for this year’s scholarship program.

“This year the Coalition Government particularly encouraged applications from women living in rural and remote areas, from non-English-speaking backgrounds and from disability and Indigenous communities,” Ms Victoria said.

“The result was overwhelming with more than 179 applications for the scholarship program received from impressive women across Victoria from all walks of life.

“I’m delighted to see so many women from so many backgrounds taking such an interest in the Government’s Women’s Governance Scholarship Program.”

Mr Ryan said scholarship applicants were judged on their experience as a board member and the extent to which the scholarship would assist the person in attaining future leadership and board positions.

“Since the scholarship program began in 2012, almost 70 Victorian women, like Ms Rush, have taken the opportunity to undertake the important professional development course at the prestigious Australian Institute of Company Directors,” Mr Ryan said.

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

$25,000 grants to tackle local graffiti issues

* * - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

  • Regional shires encouraged to apply to tackle graffiti 
  • Part of Coalition’s $35 million Community Crime Prevention Program
  • Up to $25,000 available until 20 June

Councils can now access grants of up to $25,000 to combat graffiti in local neighbourhoods as part of the Victorian Liberal National Coalition Government’s graffiti grants program.

Deputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan today encouraged local councils to think about graffiti solutions that would improve the visual amenity of neighbourhoods and increase community confidence in the safety of public places.

“The Coalition Government is serious about responding to concerns about graffiti vandalism, which is why we have committed more than $10 million over 4 years to reduce graffiti through a range of strategies under our anti-graffiti plan,” Mr Ryan said.

“The grants are open to councils to partner with local organisations such as schools, community and residents groups, local police, retailers and trader associations, to come up with local solutions to tackle graffiti.

“These might include design features such as murals, education and information programs, and graffiti removal projects.”

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government was committed to stamping out graffiti at a local level.

“Over the past three years, the government has provided more than $918,000 to fund 57 projects across the state through the grants.

Crime Prevention Minister Edward O’Donohue said that the Labor Party had shown its lack of commitment to such programs by abolishing the crime prevention portfolio from the shadow ministry.

“When Daniel Andrews reshuffled his front bench in December, the crime prevention portfolio disappeared,” Mr O’Donohue said.

“The Coalition Government is delivering programs to help communities find local solutions to local problems, while Labor is offering nothing.”

“These grants make a real difference and I strongly encourage councils across the state to apply for grants of up to $25,000.”

The Graffiti Prevention and Removal Grants are part of the Coalition Government’s $35 million Community Crime Prevention Program, which helps promote community safety and prevent crime in communities across Victoria.

Applications close on Friday 20 June and to apply or for further information, visit

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

Coalition Government reduces fire levy rates

* * - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • Victorian Coalition Government cutting fire levy rates from 1 July 2014
  • More funding for CFA and MFB in the 2014-15 State Budget
  • Fire services better resourced under the Coalition Government than Labor
The Victorian Coalition Government will reduce the Fire Services Property Levy rates in 2014-15 for all property owners, Treasurer Michael O’Brien and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan announced today.

"The Coalition Government’s successful implementation of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission property-based levy has proven to be a fairer way to fund our fire services,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We are reducing the levy rates from 1 July 2014 while also increasing funding to our fire services. The Coalition Government is delivering better funding for our fire services with lower average costs for households and businesses.”

The variable levy rate will be lower across all property categories than the 2013-14 rates. A fixed charge of $102 for residential properties and $205 for all other properties will apply.

From 1 July, the average household’s contribution to fire services funding in a CFA area is expected to remain at $142, with average MFB area household contributions remaining at an average of $143. This represents a reduction in real terms for the average household.

A $50 concession for eligible pensioners and veterans will continue to apply, benefitting over 400,000 households across the state, easing cost of living pressures.

The fire services property levy funds services provided by the CFA and the MFB twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week including personnel, training, infrastructure and equipment.

“This tax reform provides greater funding for our fire services while also reducing the rates on households, businesses and farmers right across Victoria,” Mr O’Brien said.

The new rates also reflect the recategorisation from 1 July 2014 of residential-investment flats from the commercial to the residential rate, delivering further savings for tenants and property owners across Victoria.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said that the Coalition Government had promised to overhaul the fire services levy and had delivered.

“Last year we brought in the lowest levy rates for regional areas we could afford. This year, we’ve lowered them again,” Mr Ryan said.

“The average business in the CFA area will now pay $823 instead of $923 a year.

“The average business in a CFA area on an industrial block will see its bill drop from $1,689 to $1,389, saving $300.

“Farmers are big winners, with their average Fire Services Property Levy dropping from $449 to $402. This is a massive drop from the average of $725 each farmer was paying back in 2011-12.”

Mr O’Brien said that for more than a decade Labor refused to reform the insurance-based fire services levy. This refusal continued despite recommendations from the Bushfires Royal Commission that it should be abolished.

“It costs over $780 million a year to fund our vital fire services. Record funding of $326 million for the MFB in this year’s budget will include the replacement of all respiratory protection equipment,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The 2014-15 Budget also provides an investment of $29 million for the CFA to support an accelerated fleet replacement program.”

The Coalition Government continues to directly fund 12.5 per cent of MFB and 22.5 per cent of CFA operating budgets.

“Since coming to office in 2010, the Coalition Government has provided the CFA with more than $2.29 billion and the MFB more than $1.45 billion,” Mr O’Brien said.

The 2014-15 Budget for the CFA is $457 million, $58 million more than under the last Labor Budget. The 2014-15 Budget for MFB is $326 million, $39 million more than under the last Labor Budget.

For more information about the property-based levy visit

Media Contact: Les White 0409 805 122 

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