Bicycle Network: Take Action
Regional Growth Fund
The Victorian Government has released its plans for funding regional infrastructure - the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund. The Coalition's fund is meant to support regional development over the next eight years.
Victorian Regional Growth Fund open for business
13 July 2011. The Victorian Government has announced the guidelines for its new $1 billion Regional Growth Fund (RGF), a tremendous opportunity for regional communities to gear up investment in tourism boosting rail trails.
The funding, available over the next eight years, "will support major strategic initiatives that improve both the competitiveness and liveability of regional and rural Victoria, creating more jobs and better career opportunities"
[Don't forget the Federal Government's Regional Development Australia Fund. These two funds, working together, may prove fruitful in developing significant improvements in bike infrastructure in regional Victoria over the coming years.]
The fund is broken down into two main parts.
1. The Strategic Initiatives component. This component makes up 60% of the fund (or $600 million). This component "supports major projects of regional and state-wide significance which will strengthen the economic base of communities and generate opportunities for new jobs.
2. The Local Initiatives component. This component makes up 40% of the fund (or $400 million) and is made up of a program for direct grants to regional and rural Councils to be spent as those Councils see fit on local infrastructure needs, and a program called Putting Local People First which will fund community-led priority projects. Prioritising these projects will be done locally with the assistance of five Regional Development Australia Committees
Regional Development Australia Committees
Regional Development Australia Committees are nine member committees each representing one of Victoria's nine regions. There are four metropolitan committees and five non-metropolitan committees.
The five non-metropolitan committees will assist in prioritising projects relevant to their areas through the RGF. The five non-metropolitan committees are:
- Barwon South West, from Geelong along the Great Ocean Road to the South Australia border.
- Grampians, from Ballarat across the Grampians and western plains
- Loddon-Mallee, covering Bendigo and Victoria's Northwest up to Mildura
- Hume, covering Northeast Victoria
- Gippsland, from Melbourne's outer east to the New South Wales border
The Fund and bikes and bicycle infrastructure
"The RGF will (italics Bicycle Network Victoria's):
- provide better infrastructure, facilities and services;
- strengthen the economic, social and environmental base of communities;
- create new jobs and improve career opportunities;
- support the planning and development of projects and;
- leverage increased investment"
Many of these general principles lend themselves well to directing investment from the RGF to bike trails and infrastructure. New Rail Trails, especially ones of regional or state-wide significance, or existing ones that have great potential to be improved will be viable community projects under the RGF.
For instance, "Strategic Tourism and Cultural Assets" is specifically mentioned as a funding stream under the first component of the RGF - the Strategic Initiatives Component. Victoria's existing Rail Trails are economic drivers and in many cases, substantial tourism draws, known state-wide and sometimes popular with visitors from inter-state. There are a number of trails that can be improved over the coming eight years, and new ones built, that will continue to expand upon Victoria's competitive advantage in unstructured, nature-based bicycle tourism.
While the timing for each will be significantly different, the Daylesford - Woodend Rail Trail, the extension of the Coast to Crater Trail (to the 12 Apostles), the completion of the Great Southern Rail Trail to Yarram and improving the connection of the High Country Rail Trail to Albury-Wodonga and eventually extending it further east are just some examples of trail projects that will have significant impact on their communities and regions if supported by the RGF.
What to do next
Find out about trails near you, and what's happening. Speak to your Council about bike infrastructure in your area and ask them whether any projects are planned for application to the RGF. Get in touch with the Regional Development Australia Committee and make the case to them for better bike facilities in your area, and especially if you have a key Rail Trail project that could benefit from the RGF.