Agriculture Minister engages with region

June 27, 2017

Jaala Pulford and David McKenzie want regional Victorians to have their voices heard in government.

Bridging the divide between the regions and the decision-makers in Spring St has been one of the big pushes for Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford.

Last year she launched an ambitious program to change the way the Victorian Government engages with the regions with the Regional Partnerships program.

Headed by Shepparton’s David McKenzie, the partnerships were set up in nine regional areas across the state.

Forums were held in each area, enabling people to tell the decision-makers and ministers in government exactly what their area needed.

The unorthodox approach to government decision-making had its fair share of critics, but as the program enters its second year, she said the early results had been positive.

‘‘My observations were that there was always a gap between the advocacy effort in communities and how much that infiltrated government decision making and policies,’’ Mr Pulford said.

‘‘We were keen to bridge that gap a bit.’’

The idea for regional partnerships was a first for Australia, and at Shepparton’s inaugural regional assembly last year the Premier came to chat with locals and hear their concerns.

All the talk would have been for nothing if it fell on deaf ears, but Mr McKenzie believes the government did listen to the concerns.

‘‘We articulated very clearly what the priorities of this region were, the big three for us were a sustainable future for agriculture here, connectivity — which is digital connectivity and physical connectivity like rail and road — and also intergenerational disadvantage and what we can do to get better outcomes for the youth around the area,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

These issues were presented to the rural and regional sub-committee in Cabinet, and the government decided to make some funding announcements in these areas at the last budget.

These included extra funding for rail upgrades, extra funding for The Lighthouse Project to help Shepparton youth as well as funding for the long-planned Shepparton bypass.

With the dates announced for the next regional assembly, he wants everyone in the Goulburn area to get on board and have their voice heard.

‘‘It is a genuine partnership model, it’s not them doing things to us or for us,’’ he said.

■The next Goulburn Regional Assembly, which is for people in the Shepparton, Mitchell, Moira, Murrindindi and Strathbogie council areas will be held in Seymour on August 30.

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