The bitter wrangle between local and state governments over the designation of the Mornington Peninsula as “metropolitan Melbourne” has reached crisis point with local authorities reaching out to officially become part of Tasmania.
The move follows unsuccessful attempts to have the Mornington Peninsula redesignated part of Regional Victoria.
“The issue really came to light during the Covid-19 lockdowns,” said local businessman Jeremy Turnstingle.
“Being lumped in with metro Melbourne was a huge blow.
“If you remember, we were forced to lock down, despite having no cases, while Regional Victoria were able to stay open.”
The decision sparked an outcry on the Mornington Peninsula and was followed by persistent lobbying including petitions to the state government, and even questions asked directly to Premier Daniel Andrews during his daily press conferences.
At stake was more than exemptions from lockdowns. Regional Victoria benefits from a raft of incentives and concessions not available to metro Melbourne including lower rates of payroll tax and stamp duty. Frustratingly to Mornington Peninsula’s residents and businesses, much of the other side of Port Phillip Bay is designated as Regional Victoria, while the Mornington Peninsula is considered metro Melbourne.
“Imagine, businesses pay 4.5% payroll tax in Sorrento, but a quick dog paddle across to Queenscliff, they pay half that rate! It just doesn’t make sense!” said Mr Turnstingle.
And after months of lobbying, and no action, this issue has finally reached tipping point.
“We’ve tried everything we can to make the government see this our way,” said Frank Groundstein, a shire spokesperson that spoke to The News on the condition of anonymity.
“We’ve tried the carrot, and now we have to use the stick. We’ve contacted Tasmania to see if they’ll have us.”
It is believed Tasmania has given the idea the green light.
“I think the Mornington Peninsula has a lot to offer Tasmania,” said a spokesperson for the Tasmanian government.
“It would be great to have some beaches you could sit on without getting frost-bite. And Tasmania would only be a quick drive from the Melbourne CBD, which would be great for our tourism.”
There are other benefits too. It is believed plans are underway for a drive-on, drive-off facility at Mornington Pier allowing the Spirit of Tasmania to dock there instead of Devonport.
“This will be wonderful for Mornington with all the interstate travellers heading here from Melbourne,” said local trader Felicity Fathom.
It is believed docking the Spirit of Tasmania in Mornington instead of Devonport will shorten the current ten hour journey to Tasmania to about an hour.
Asked about the move by the Mornington Peninsula to join Tasmania, Premier Dan Andrews refused to comment, but bystanders reporting hearing him murmur something about “slippery steps”.