ALTHOUGH debate continues over whether the Mornington Peninsula is part of metropolitan Melbourne or a region, the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has approved two projects under the federal government’s Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).
Mr Joyce attributes $188,000 for an environmental and education centre at Red Hill and $300,000 for a “recovery event” at Balnarring as being “a testament to the dedication of [Flinders MP] Greg Hunt”.
The joint news release from Mr Joyce and Mr Hunt announcing the grants quoted Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Despi O’Connor as saying the shire was being “thrilled to receive this funding under the Building Better Regions Fund”.
“The $149,998 secured through this grant will be dollar-matched by the shire … to deliver a fun, inclusive and immersive community event to Balnarring.” Cr O’Connor said.
“This event will be delivered within the context of a broader, peninsula-wide arts and cultural festival, and offer a broad range of music, creative arts and performance experiences, as well as participatory workshops and activities for people of all ages.”
Mr Hunt, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, said the Balnarring “recovery event will expand and inspire our rich, vibrant arts sector – building on the $300,000 investment made earlier this year to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery” (“Artists invited to share peninsula impressions” The News 4/10/21). “I’m also excited for the environmental and education centre to come to life and provide environmental education on preserving our beautiful sites like the [National Trust-owned] Endeavour Fern Gully.”
National Trust of Australia CEO Simon Ambrose said the environment and education centre “will be a space for locals, visitors, tourists, researchers and students to learn and engage about the environmentally and culturally significant site, rich in flora, fauna and habitat diversity”.
Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister Mr Joyce, said the federal government was “focused on ensuring our regions remain strong”.
Extra money committed by the government “will support more projects, more jobs and create more economic opportunities in our regions to boost their recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“Funding for these projects in the Flinders electorate is a testament to the dedication of Greg Hunt,” Mr Joyce said.
“Funding under the Building Better Regions Fund supports economic and social infrastructure for the long-term benefit of regional communities.”
Seeing benefits in being considered metropolitan or regional by other levels of government, the shire is opting for being classified peri-regional (“Shire seeks metro break with benefits” The News 2/8/21).
An online poll of residents is due to end this month, although councillors have been warned that there are pluses and minuses to either classification.
Shire advocacy facilitator Emma Lindsay, in a report to council’s 13 July meeting, said that “the debate surrounding the current metropolitan classification … is a complex issue including significant planning, land use and administrative implications”.
“Most of our community are not aware of the complexities involved beyond COVID lockdown, which necessitate careful analysis and consideration, beyond a yes or no vote,” Ms Lindsay said.
Ms Lindsay – who described the peninsula as having a hybrid urban and rural character – cautioned councillors against pushing for a change in the peninsula’s status until it had “a clear advocacy position, informed and validated by external and independent research”.
The business-backed Committee for Mornington Peninsula has said that being classified metropolitan “frequently disadvantages our residents, businesses and communities without providing the standards that metropolitan designation should confer”.
Liberal Mornington MP David Morris has told state parliament that the peninsula is not an extension of the metropolitan area (“Peninsula a ‘pretend’ metro area – MP” The News 16/8/21).
“The standard of government services on the Mornington Peninsula is not up to metropolitan standards. It is not now, and it never has been,” Mr Morris, a former Mornington Shire president, said.