Fight for funds

With another Federal election looming, the Mt Barker Council has seen an opportunity to push for community gain and seized it with both hands.
The council’s $54m priority project wish list has been handed to both sitting Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie and her main opponent, Liberal candidate Georgina Downer.
Mayor Ann Ferguson and council staff have also spruiked its contents to Labor Leader Bill Shorten and several members of his Shadow Ministry.
It has seen the advantage of a marginal seat and is using the opportunity to leverage as much as it can for the advantage of the district.
While some might criticise the list and any grants that may follow as classic pre-election pork barreling, it shows careful consideration and planning on the council’s part. Last year’s by-election in Mayo netted $15.5m to aid projects backed by the Mt Barker Council.
Already this year the region has secured $8.6m from the Federal Government for the expansion of Mt Barker hospital’s emergency department, which arguably may not have been delivered had Mayo been a safe seat.
But, in a district where the population is set to grow by more than 20,000 over the next two decades, that kind of money is just the tip of the iceberg.
A $54m request sounds audacious, but the total cost of these six projects alone is a whopping $106m. Many of these projects are big-ticket items that the council could never deliver on its own.
Yet items such as the connector road and sports hub are vital for the long-term connectivity and future wellbeing of both existing residents and the thousands of new people coming into the town.
This list also represents a small fraction of the infrastructure and facilities needed by 2036 to counter Mt Barker’s growing pains.
Federal and State Government support are going to be vital over the next 20 years to deliver major projects for this community.
The council’s fears this week about a looming public education crisis are also a symptom of rapid growth forced on a country community.
While any Federal Government grants the council can secure ahead of this year’s election will likely be welcomed with open arms, it also needs the State Government to step up and help deliver on these projects and many others.