The Mayors and CEOS of the Eastern Region Councils met the candidates of the major parties last week to discuss the key priorities for the coming State Election.
Maroondah Mayor Alex Makin, who chaired the meeting, said representatives from Yarra Ranges, Banyule, Boroondara, Greater Dandenong, Knox, Manningham, Nillumbik and Whitehorse councils all attended the event.
“The Eastern Region Councils represent more than 1.34 million people which is 25 per cent of Melbourne’s metropolitan population, so by joining forces we have more scope to ensure our concerns are addressed by the State Government,” Cr Makin said.
“Last week’s meeting was an opportunity to ensure the major party candidates in the upcoming election were fully briefed on the ERC priority issues and concerns,” Cr Makin said.
The Eastern Region Councils priorities are: public transport; early years; street lighting; school crossing supervision; libraries and land use planning
“We believe the residents living in the eastern region deserve an improved level of public transport services. The Eastern Region Councils are calling on the State Government to take the lead when it comes to developing a long term regional public transport strategy which addresses the needs of the eastern region,” Cr Makin said.
“Some of the major projects that were discussed were the triplication of the train line between Box Hill and Ringwood and the duplication of single tracks running to Lilydale and Belgrave,” Cr Makin said.
“We also discussed the need for high capacity public transport connecting Rowville and Doncaster to the city, and introducing a review of the public transport pricing arrangements,” Cr Makin said.
“These types of changes would go a long way to addressing the current and future needs of the growing population in the eastern region,” Cr Makin said.
Another major concern of the Eastern Region Councils is the development and implementation of the Early Years Reform.
“While the Eastern Region Councils are supportive of the Early Years Reform we believe it is imperative that the collective impacts of all the components of the reform are considered during the development of the implementation plan,”; Cr Makin said.
“Eastern Region Councils would like to see a consultative and partnership approach during the implementation of the reform and to ensure there is adequate funding and resources allocated to the reform,” Cr Makin said.
Street lighting is the third priority or the Eastern Region Councils and one that has been generating a lot of support via the MAV’s Give Our Streets the Green Light campaign.
“The Eastern Region Councils are calling on the State Government to make a funding commitment towards the capital costs of changing over the street lights to more energy efficient globes,” Cr Makin said.
The third priority is the increasing cost of school crossing supervisors due to cost-shifting from the State Government.
“The cost of implementing the program each year is increasing due to the amount of cost-shifting coming from the State Government,” Cr Makin.
“The funding gap just continues to grow, with councils now subsidising about 75 per cent of the school crossing program,” Cr Makin said.
“To address this issue the Eastern Region Councils are calling on a 50:50 type system to better share the costs between local and state governments,” Cr Makin said.
“The group is calling for a similar agreement to help cover the costs associated with running library services. The current models of State Government funding doesn’t take
into account inflation or population growth, so the funds are only covering about 20 per cent of operating the facilities,” Cr Makin said.
“The councils are seeking a long term funding agreement from the State Government which better recognises the growing costs of operating library services,” Cr Makin said.
“Planning and land use issues are also a high priority, with the Eastern Region Councils seeking a commitment from the State Government to amend sections of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 which would give more weight to local government planning scheme amendments which have reached the exhibition stage,” Cr Makin said.
“At the moment Eastern Region Councils don’t have enough confidence in the process because of the variations in which the planning policy is interpreted at VCAT level. By introducing clearer definitions in the policy, the Eastern Region Councils believe there would be greater certainty and less dissatisfaction among residents and developers,” Cr Makin said.
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