HAS the State Government delivered for rural Victoria? KATE DOWLER investigates
Country Victoria has received a decent deal from the State Government, which hit the halfway mark in their four-year term this week.
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Many Coalition Government election promises have been delivered, but the more difficult problem, such as natural gas, remain unmet.
Reforms this year include making the fire services levy property-based rather than insurance-based.
While those in fire-risk areas still won't know until May neat year what they will be paying, the new system should spread the burden more fairly across the community.
The Victorian Farmers Federation has given the Government a qualified tick of approval, rating them seven out of 10. Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said the Government also deserved a pat on the back for delivering on promises for country roads and bridges and local government infrastructure.
It is also providing extra money to maintain its half share of state-local funding for maternal and child health services, despite the tough economic climate and subsequent budget cuts.
"Councils welcomed $7.8 million over three years to help manage roadside weeds, but a sting in the tail is long-term legislation to enshrine this responsibility well beyond the lifespan of the funding committed," Mr McArthur said.
"Action to provide more flexibility to rural zones and potable water catchments are (also) good first steps."
But Mr McArthur said there was room for improvement. Securing State support remained a high priority to help councils deal with their $397 million defined benefit superannuation shortfall.
Many of the Government's budget cuts will affect country voters, such as to the TAFE system and the Department of Primary Industry.
Yet on many farming issues, and on water particularly, Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh is generally well regarded.
He has not yet been able to bring in aerial baiting for wild dogs, due to a deadlock with the Commonwealth, but is respected for trying.
Mr Walsh says he plans to continue delivering on his election promises, within the constraints of the economy.
Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Mark Stone said the Government had "made sound progress in demonstrating responsible economic and financial management".
"Tough decisions have been made to reduce unnecessary government expenditure and improve public service efficiency and productivity," Mr Stone said.
He also praised the Government for meeting pre-election commitments to raise service standards in areas like law and order, health, education and public transport
But Environment Victoria said the Government has a long way to go to meet its election commitments on environmental issues.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews, who is beginning to attract a bit more attention, having released a major jobs plan last week, said the Government needed to focus on job creation, which would be his plan if his party took the reins at the next election.