LIBERAL member for Narracan Gary Blackwood says his focus should he be re-elected in November’s state election would be on securing funding for projects at the West Gippsland Hospital and education.
This article was first published in the 15 August 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
This will be the third election faced by Mr Blackwood, who told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen he feels comfortable in the community.
“I’ve always been treated with respect and I feel very comfortable right through Narracan,” he said.
“I enjoy the job because of the people out there in the community.”
Leading into the election Mr Blackwood lists his focuses as education and health.
“I have a few things on my wish list that I would like to see delivered,” he said.
“We delivered all the committments we made prior to the 2010 election, which is the upgrade of the emergency department of the West Gippsland Hospital…, the upgrade of the Lardners Track rail crossing, and the Warragul Railway Precinct Project was also promised at the election and is on its way, the car park should be opened in September this year. We’ve got the Sand Road Interchange funded.
“This coming election I’m pushing really really hard for a decision to be made on where the future of the West Gippsland Hospital will be – will it be re-developed on the current site or will it be moved to a new site on the corner of Lardners Track and Warragul-Drouin Road?
“Kindergartens is also a big issue. Over the last [term of] government we have put almost $1 million into kindergartens here in West Gippsland in Yarragon, Warragul, and Drouin.
“We are very keen to progress, where the opportunity arises, the setting up of education hubs, as we have done in Yarragon, where we are able to provide primary school education and early years education on the same site.
“Drouin Primary School is also being looked at as an option for that, so I’m keen to help that happen, and there’s a couple of other opportunities being looked at at Warragul Primary School and Trafalgar.
“I also think there are areas of the Warragul Regional College that need upgrading. Neerim South Secondary College the same.
“The third stage of Trafalgar High School redevelopment has to happen too.”
In addition to that list, Mr Blackwood is keen to improve bus services in the region.
“Improved bus services are on my wish list as well. I’ve been calling for that for quite some time,” Mr Blackwood said.
“There’s two elements to that – one is the extension of the Warragul town bus service that goes to the hospital. We want that to go past the Lifestyle Village.
“Plus we’re looking for a town bus service for Drouin. Drouin is the largest rural town (in Victoria) not to have a town bus service, so I’m really really hoping I can get funding allocated for that.
“I think in total those two projects need recurring funding of $1.8 to $2 million per year, so it’s not cheap but it needs to happen.
“We’ve been lucky enough to expand the Warragul to Noojee bus service so it now picks up in Buln Buln, but we really desperately need extra services.”
Mr Blackwood acknowledged that changes to TAFE funding early in the term, which saw the closure of a number of courses at what was GippsTAFE Warragul, was not as effective as hoped, but said it needed to happen.
“We made some structural changes to the way TAFE and VCAL courses were offered, in particular we were trying to restructure into courses that will actually lead to genuine jobs and apprenticeships,” Mr Blackwood said.
“There’s been some winners and losers in that, I understand that, it hasn’t worked probably as succe-ssfuly as we would’ve liked in all quarters, but having said that we are putting $1.2 billion into the TAFE sector where the previous Labor government allocated $800 million in their last year.
Mr Blackwood said he was motivated by those doing it tough in the electorate.
“In particular the mums and dads with children with a disability. They’re the [people who] really touch you as work through the work we do,” Mr Blackwood said.
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