• Loddon Herald

Listening to small towns


THE last year and a bit have been extremely tough on many in our community and many industries.

When the pandemic began, there was a significant concern in rural and regional areas about whether many local newspapers would survive.

In Ripon, at least, something quite remarkable happened. Driven by locals who saw an opportunity and a need for genuine local news, new publications started popping up. The Loddon Herald was one of those publications, and it is one reason why I am so glad to contribute to its pages. I extend my congratulations to all those who have worked tirelessly to make this local newspaper a reality. I also extend my best wishes for the future of this newspaper and all the other local newspapers right across regional Victoria. They provide a much-needed service for their local communities.

Last month, I undertook a tour of small towns in Ripon. It was an excellent opportunity for me to visit some places forgotten by those along the trams tracks in leafy Melbourne.

As the Member for Ripon, I must represent the interests of all our communities to the government and do all that I can to ensure Ripon gets its fair share. This is not always easy. We have a government that is more than happy to waste money in metropolitan Melbourne on budget blowouts for major projects, while at the same time country roads are crumbling, and other badly-needed projects in regional Victoria go by the wayside.

These budget blowouts constitute a significant reason Victoria’s state debt is forecast to hit $155 billion over the next four years, and why our credit ratings with both Standard and Poors and with Moodys have been downgraded since last year’s State Budget was handed down in November.

We have another State Budget being handed down later this month. I have already advocated for several key projects to be funded, including the complete rebuilding of Donaldson Park.

The Andrews Government has also failed communities in Ripon with some poorly considered proposed changes.

Firstly, the proposal to allow river frontages on crown land leased to farmers has not been sufficiently thought through. While this may have seemed like a grand idea to public servants working in Melbourne, affected farmers in Ripon and right around Victoria would know this potentially creates all sorts of problems related to biosecurity and farm safety. I note that Landcare has come out opposing the Andrews Government’s approach saying “many in the Landcare community fear that an expansion in the areas of land available for camping will create negative environmental and social impacts, and that the responsible government agencies are not sufficiently resourced to enforce the proposed regulations.”

Another bad idea to come from the Melbourne-centric Andrews Government is to designate animal manure as industrial waste from July 1. The reuse of animal manure has been part of farming for centuries. It has been done without risk to farmers, communities and consumers. For organic and biodynamic farmers, animal manure is their primary source of fertiliser, so to classify it as industrial waste has particularly negative consequences for these farming systems. In February,

I called on the new Minister for Agriculture, Mary-Anne Thomas, to intervene on behalf of farming communities and the agricultural industry and stop this planned change.

Once again, I congratulate the Loddon Herald for filling a needed news and information gap in the community.

* Louise Staley is the member for Ripon.

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