Federal Candidates Urged To Support Yarra Ranges Agribusiness Sector

Published on 17 March 2022

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Yarra Ranges Council is seeking funding commitments from Casey electorate candidates in the upcoming Federal Election to support a $150 million project that would enable roads surrounding local agribusinesses to be sealed, while helping economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding would be used to design and construct 150 kilometres of sealed roads as part of Council’s ‘Roads for Agribusiness’ initiative, targeting roads regularly used by agribusinesses in transporting produce to and from the farmgate.

Yarra Ranges Mayor Jim Child said the ‘Roads for Agribusiness’ initiative would provide benefits to agribusiness owners and their employees, as well as 1,400 residents in agricultural areas of the Yarra Ranges.

“Agribusiness is at the heart of the Yarra Ranges economy, generating $701 million in economic output each year,” Cr Child said.

“Our agribusinesses were hit hard during Covid-19 and through the significant storm events our region experienced last year.

“Unsealed roads surrounding these businesses are inhibiting access to farmgates, damaging produce during transportation, and generating dust that contaminates valuable crops. They are also a deterrent for both the essential labour force and visitors alike,” he said.

Cr Child said Yarra Ranges was home to a large unmade road network of approximately 700 kilometres.

“Every year Council spends approximately $4.5 million grading unsealed roads at a cost of $1250 per kilometre for each grade,” he said.

“Roads are typically graded between three to six times per year, and the effects can be very short-term depending on traffic and weather conditions.

Cr Child said the ‘Roads for Agribusiness’ initiative would build on the success of the ‘Roads for Community’ initiative, through which Council was delivering approximately 180 kilometres of sealed roads in urban areas of the Dandenongs and townships of the municipality over nine years.

Council received $150 million in funding from the Federal Government back in 2019 for this initiative as part of an election commitment secured by the former Member for Casey, Tony Smith. Commonwealth funding more than halved the required contributions from Yarra Ranges landowners, from approximately $15,000 (typically) to $7,000.

“While Yarra Ranges is the largest metropolitan council in Victoria, we have large rural areas, much bigger than the urban areas of our municipality.

“Yarra Ranges’ agriculture sector is an important part of state, national and global food supply chain markets, and is essentially part of the food bowl for the Melbourne metropolitan area.

“Our agribusinesses are key to our region’s, and the country’s, economic recovery.

“Funding for the ‘Roads for Agribusiness’ initiative is vital to enable these businesses to bounce back, by boosting productivity, protecting crops from contamination and minimising damage of produce during transport, while also enhancing road safety, creating the opportunity for more local jobs and supporting tourism.

“This funding would also enable Council funds normally used for grading to be redirected to Council’s asset management and renewal programs, delivering even further benefits across the Yarra Ranges community.”

Cr Child said Council had started discussions with candidates contesting the Federal seat of Casey regarding the importance of the ‘Roads for Agribusiness’ initiative and other priorities Council had identified through its Advocacy Agenda.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for candidates to support an essential initiative and make a very big difference to the economic prosperity of this region.”

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