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“Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes, Nationals Candidate for Euroa Electorate Steph Ryan and Leader of The Nationals and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan”


Friday, August 22, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes in Parliament this week spoke in support of the Victorian Coalition Government’s Resources Legislation Amendment (BTEX Prohibition and other matters) Bill 2014.
The main purpose of the Bill is to implement a statutory framework restricting the use of BTEX compounds in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Victoria.
Dr Sykes said, “This Bill addresses the use of dangerous chemicals in fracking operations. They are referred to as BTEX – that is benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.
“There are examples, particularly in the past, where fracking used dangerous chemicals in dangerous quantities, and that was inappropriate.”
Dr Sykes said that the Bill supports other measures already put in place by the Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government in relation to coal seam gas exploration and mining in Victoria.
“In 2012 the Victorian Coalition Government announced a hold on approvals, until at least July 2015, to undertake hydraulic fracturing as part of onshore gas exploration and a hold on new exploration licences until national regulatory frameworks were finalised.
“Unlike Labor, which allocated 73 licences for coal seam, shale and tight gas exploration and approved 23 fracking operations without any community consultation, we are engaging with the community and listening to community concerns and seeking to make sure that information is provided for those community concerns to be addressed and further debated.
“I think it is absolutely critical that we understand the risks involved, which primarily relate to the potential impacts on water quality and quantity.
“In spite of what Labor says, independent facilitators are getting out and about and listening to community concerns and taking them on board.
“They are not ramming down their throats what we think the answers are but listening to community concerns with the overall intention being to ensure informed decision making involving the community.”
Dr Sykes highlighted a brief visit to south east Queensland to view coal seam gas mining first hand.
“In Queensland, under many years of Labor government, exploration and mining activities proceeded with few controls and I am pleased to see that under a Liberal-Nationals Government there are now checks and balances in place.
“It is important that in Victoria we understand and protect our valuable underground resource.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is acting responsibly. We have applied a moratorium on exploration and mining, we are seeking to understand what is happening with our underground water supplies, we are undertaking community consultation and we are putting this piece of legislation in place which protects against the misuse of chemicals that are known to be dangerous in excessive quantities.”
For more information on onshore gas visit


Friday, August 22, 2014
The Victorian Government and Upper Murray Community Wild Dog Control Group are working together to increase wild dog baiting on public land at Granya.
Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries Bill Sykes said community baiting on public land was a new initiative that had been driven by local producers affected by wild dogs and supported by the government.
“Community baiting programs bring local land owners together and build their capacity to effectively manage wild dogs across private and public land,” Dr Sykes said.
“The Victorian Coalition Government understands the devastating impact wild dogs have on livestock producers and native fauna, and we are committed to supporting these community baiting programs as part of an integrated approach to wild dog control.
“Wild dog predation is most effectively reduced when all land managers across both private and public land take coordinated and ongoing action.”
Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI), Parks Victoria and the Upper Murray Community Wild Dog Control Group were working together to deliver the community baiting program.
Mr Tilley said it complemented other recent initiatives in the region, such as the introduction of local access to fresh meat baits.
“Fresh meat baits have not been available locally for many years. Through this interstate program, the Upper Murray Community Wild Dog Control Group now has access to fresh baits at the Murray Local Land Services depot in Holbrook,” Mr Tilley said.
“This community baiting program will also enhance the value of the recent upgrade work completed on the community exclusion fencing in the Granya/Mt Lawson area.”
Other actions undertaken by the Coalition Government since 2011 include:
• Commencing aerial baiting for wild dog control in remote, inaccessible areas;
• Launching the Victorian Wild Dog Action Plan in December 2013;
• Building a flexible and responsive team of wild dog controllers to respond to incident reports quickly and efficiently with maximum effect;
• Redirecting a 2012-13 funding allocation to a large scale ground baiting program when the previous Commonwealth Government refused to permit aerial baiting;
• Maintaining the 72 hour check rule for traps;
• Introducing a wild dog pelt bounty, and doubling the bounty to $100 in January 2013, with 1441 skins handed in so far;
• Establishing community baiting programs, including allowing farmers to bait outside their property boundaries;
• Establishing the Wild Dog Control Advisory Committee to provide strategic advice;
• Cut red tape so wild dog controllers can work outside the 3km buffer zone;
• Provided wild dog controllers with iPads so they can log data in the field, and spend less time in the office.
“The Coalition has done more to control wild dogs in three-and-a-half years than the former Labor government achieved in more than a decade,” Mr Tilley said.
Local producer Peter Star said providing land holders the ability to bait on public land strengthens the cooperative relationship with land holders and the relevant government departments delivering a cross tenure approach.
“At no point do producers want to compromise the role of the wild dog controller, but want to complement their challenging task in controlling wild dogs in the region,” Mr Star said.


Friday, August 22, 2014
Young people in Benalla will find learning to drive easier thanks to the donation of a new Toyota Yaris by the Value Automotive Group.
The vehicle will be used in the L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program and will provide drivers under 21 years of age, without access to a vehicle or a driving supervisor, the opportunity to gain valuable on-road experience.
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes thanked the Value Automotive Group for the donation and said it would enable even more young people to participate in the program.
“We’re delighted to have an organisation such as the Value Automotive Group recognise the importance of the L2P program to the Benalla community and I thank them for their generous donation.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “In Victoria learner drivers under the age of 21 are required to record at least 120 hours of supervised driving before they can sit for their probationary license test.
“For most young people that’s easy, but for others it can be a real challenge.
“Some young people don’t have access to a vehicle in which to practice, others don’t have somebody to supervise them, some don’t have either,” she said.
The L2P program is a state-wide initiative sponsored by VicRoads and was developed to support young people as part of Victoria’s Graduated Licensing system (GLS). To date almost 5,000 Victorians have benefited from the program.
In the five years from 2009 to 2013, one driver aged 18 to 21 years was killed, two were seriously injured and 19 sustained other injuries in Benalla.
Managing Director of the Value Automotive Group, John McIlroy said the donation was something the Value Automotive Group was keen to do.
“Road safety and good driving habits are things our business is keen to promote and this is just one small way we can do that.
“We’re keen that the young people of Benalla have every opportunity to learn to drive and that they do so in a safe, reliable vehicle,” Mr McIlroy said.
Benalla Rural City Council recently assumed responsibility for running the L2P program in Benalla, and Mayor Cr Barbara Alexander said council couldn’t be happier to be assisting young people in the community in this way.
“We know that young people in rural areas face particular challenges that their city counterparts don’t, and this is part of our commitment to ensuring that they have access to services to give them the best possible start. We greatly appreciate the important contribution of the Value Automotive Group to the program,” Cr Alexander said.
The program is currently looking for volunteers with driving experience to help learner drivers gain on-the-road driving experience through the L2P program. Training is provided and anybody interested in becoming a volunteer mentor should call the Benalla L2P coordinator Vivian Ives on 5760 2682.


Thursday, August 21, 2014
• Coalition Government strengthens waste and recycling services in the north east
• $6.4 million investment to deliver stronger waste services in regional Victoria
• Coalition Government building a better regional Victoria
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes has welcomed the announcement of the new chairperson and board members who will pave the way for stronger waste and recycling services in north east Victoria.
Dr Sykes said the board members for the north east region will deliver the Victorian Coalition Government’s waste and recovery plan for regional Victoria and lead the way on best practice, infrastructure and services for the region.
“I congratulate Cr Don Chambers on his appointment as Chair of the North East Waste and Resource Recovery group,” he said.
“These six groups will be supported by the Coalition Government’s $6.4 million investment that will strengthen waste and resource recovery in the North East, Barwon South, Gippsland, Goulburn Valley, Loddon Mallee and Central Grampians regions.
“This additional funding will help the newly created regional groups to deliver their regional waste and resource recovery plans, and facilitate the management and construction of new infrastructure and services.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said the formation of the regional waste and resource recovery groups delivers on the Coalition Government’s commitment to support a more sophisticated approach to waste and recycling and achieve the best outcomes for Victorians.
“The Coalition Government recognises that waste is a strong contributor to job creation and economic growth in our great state, and in this term has invested around $40 million in the waste and resource recovery industry.
“To support our commitment to the waste industry, the Coalition Government has created a 30 year vision to reduce waste and get more value from our resources, outlined in the Getting Full Value waste and resource recovery plan.”
For more information visit  


Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes today welcomed a new program, Local Facilities for Local Clubs, to help clubs improve their sports facilities quicker.
The program rewards innovative community clubs and organisations with dollar-for-dollar funding of up to $50,000 for small sport and recreation facility projects.
Dr Sykes said, “This program is a game-changer for local sporting clubs, acknowledging the hard work of volunteer administrators by providing financial support for small facility projects that make a big difference to local people.”
The program recognises and rewards sport and recreation clubs which may be able to source materials or have qualified tradespeople such as electricians or plumbers provide in-kind support to projects so that clubs can get important upgrades to facilities.
Nationals candidate for the Euroa electorate Steph Ryan said, “Our sporting and recreational clubs are often the backbone of small rural communities and it is important they are supported so that they can provide the best facilities and encourage increased participation in sport and community events.”
Community clubs and communities looking to redevelop or upgrade their local facilities should contact their local council to discuss their potential project. Local councils can apply for up to $50,000 towards two projects. Each project can have a total project cost up to $150,000.
Applications close on Monday 15 September 2014.
Funding is available for upgrades to new or existing sport and active recreation infrastructure which increases or maintains sport and recreation participation.
For more information about the Local Facilities for Local Clubs program and other community sporting facility funding programs on offer visit


Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes has invited experienced commercial builders to express their interest in the renovation of the historic Mount Buffalo Chalet.
“We are seeking a head contractor to undertake the major redevelopment works set to reopen the Chalet in 2016 as a day visitor attraction for the region and Victoria,” Dr Sykes said.
“This project is a unique opportunity for the right builder with an understanding of what it takes to succeed in a remote, environmentally sensitive and much loved location like Mount Buffalo National Park.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has invested $7.5 million to the redevelopment of the Chalet which is another example of our commitment to managing Victoria’s parks for the benefit of the community and to boost regional tourism.
“The Coalition Government is committed to investing in regional tourism, a significant economic driver worth $10.9 billion to regional Victoria. This call for contractors is another step forward to deliver a fantastic project for the Mount Buffalo National Park,” Dr Sykes said.
“The historic renovation plans will improve access to the Chalet with a new visitor entrance and portico on the south side of the building and an upgrade to the existing car parking area. Building improvements will also include a new tourist information area and renewal of the heritage landscaped gardens.”
Nationals Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy said, “This is a fantastic project that will deliver jobs to the region during construction as well as ongoing economic benefit from increased tourist visitation into the future.”
The select tender process will require short listed firms to comply with the Victorian Industry Participation Program designed to ensure local regional providers and trades people are given an opportunity to participate in this important project.
Successful firms will be short listed by Parks Victoria and invited to participate in a select tender process which will ultimately award the building contract.
For more information visit  


Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said today the Victorian Coalition Government has launched a new $1.5 million grants program for community groups wanting to improve the amenity of their local area or increase awareness and enjoyment of their local environment.
Dr Sykes said the Local Landscape Enhancement Grants of up to $50,000 will be available to community groups for year-long projects and encouraged groups in north east Victoria to apply.
“These grants are part of the Victorian Coalition Government’s commitment to practical on-ground action to protect and restore our natural environment in partnership with local communities,” he said.
“Projects will need to be locally-based and focused on practical, on-ground measures and that address local needs.”
Nationals candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan said, “Community groups may have an idea for a new environmental project in their area or want help to build on a previously completed project.
“Through this new program community groups are encouraged to apply for funding for projects with budgets of all sizes, big and small.”
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the Department of Environment and Primary Industries is partnering with Parks Victoria to deliver the Local Landscape Enhancement Grants program.
“These grants will support the many community groups that undertake projects to protect our environment, contribute to our environmental knowledge and make a real difference to local communities,” Mr Smith said.
“This is a great opportunity for groups such as Committees of Management, schools and kindergartens, youth groups, senior citizen groups, Rotary and RSL clubs and multicultural groups to help improve their local environment.”
For further information about the Local Landscape Enhancement Grants program, eligibility guidelines and application form visit
Applications close at 4pm on Monday 15 September.


Monday, August 18, 2014
Benalla cyclist Felicity Wardlaw is set to take the world stage thanks to a share in $180,000 to help Victorian athletes travel to major competitions and events, Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said today.

Dr Sykes welcomed the funding boost for Victorian athletes through the Victorian Coalition Government’s Elite Athlete Travel Grants program.

“Felicity applied for an Elite Athlete Travel Grant to assist with the expenses of travelling to compete in the Oceania Road Cycling Championships in Toowoomba after winning the Individual Time Trial at the National Road Championships in January.

“The grant she received is now assisting her to travel to Europe in a bid to be selected for the Australian Team at the World Championships to be held in Spain in September this year.

“There can be a huge financial burden on athletes travelling to compete at national and international competitions, and this program is giving our local elite athletes, such as Felicity, the support needed to realise their sporting dreams,” Dr Sykes said.

Felicity said she does not receive sponsorship or support for travel and accommodation to events and as a result all her expenses are usually self-funded.

“When you have a once in life time opportunity you find ways and every little bit helps, so I am very grateful to receive this grant,” she said.

“Preparation for Europe has not been smooth sailing with a couple of bouts of a winter cold and some nasty injuries obtained from a crash during a race last weekend. But being an elite athlete you learn very quickly to control what you can control and not worry about what you can’t.”

Felicity said she had been very well supported by her workplace (Department of Environment and Primary Industries) and was extremely grateful for the support and understanding she had received.

Dr Sykes said the Elite Athlete Travel Grants Program has provided nearly $1.45 million to assist with the travel costs of 954 Victorian elite athletes since January 2012, with 57 different sports being funded in this round alone.

Grant recipients must be recognised by their State Sporting Association as a representative of Victoria or Australia or be eligible to compete at the highest level nationally or internationally.

“I look forward to cheering on Felicity as she continues to compete in major events across Australia and around the world,” Dr Sykes said. 


Monday, August 18, 2014
• Mansfield Recreation Reserve receives $1 million from Regional Growth Fund
• $2.2 million Mansfield Community Gathering Place Project now complete
• Victorian Coalition Government total investment of over $1.2 million to the project
Residents of Mansfield have a new meeting place with the completion of a $2.2 million upgrade to the local recreation reserve, which included a $1 million investment from the Regional Growth Fund.
Representing Deputy Premier and Minster for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan and Minister for Sport and Recreation Damian Drum, Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the $2.2 million Mansfield Community Gathering Place Project had received $1.2 million in Victorian Coalition Government funding.
“The Coalition Government’s investment is made up of $1,050,000 from the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund and a further $161,000 through the Country Football Netball Program,” Dr Sykes said.
“The Mansfield Shire Council has contributed $640,000 and local businesses, club members and community organisations contributed a massive $249,000 of in-kind labour and materials to complete the project.”
Dr Sykes said it had been an ambitious project which had the support of the local council and user groups.
“The project included the reorientation of the football oval to comply with league standards and provide a safer ground for players,” he said.
“The redevelopment included improved drainage and ground surface to ensure smooth playing conditions for football and cricket.”
Mr Drum said the two new netball courts have been built including a competition show court and practice court, and change rooms and spectator viewing areas.
“What we have as a result is fitter, healthier and happier families - all living in a rural town with appropriate community and sporting facilities,” Mr Drum said.
Member for Seymour Cindy McLeish said the Mansfield Community Gathering Place could cater for sporting events, festivals, markets and other community activities.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said supporting initiatives such as the Mansfield Community Gathering Place Project was a key objective of the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, which is investing in community-led projects to strategically drive jobs, investment and innovation in rural and regional Victoria.
“Since it was established in 2011, the Regional Growth Fund has delivered almost $430 million, generating over $1.7 billion of total investment across 1500 projects,” Mr Ryan said.
In Mansfield Shire the Regional Growth Fund has provided $3.4 million to support 16 projects, leveraging $7.8 million in total investment. These projects include:
• $375,000 for the $750,000 Mt Buller Mt Stirling EPIC Mountain Bike Trail Project – Element Two
• $49,500 for the $61,895 Mansfield Community Resilience Leadership Program
• $200,000 for the $200,000 Mansfield Youth Facility


Friday, August 15, 2014
To celebrate the 2014 opening of the trout fishing season in rivers, the Eildon community and Victorian Government will once again host the Goulburn Fishing Festival on September 5 and 6.
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the festival aimed to promote the wide range of freshwater fishing opportunities in the district, including the Goulburn River, the scenic Eildon Pondage and the iconic Lake Eildon.
“This is the third consecutive year of the festival, which is supported by the Victorian Coalition Government’s $16 million Recreational Fishing Initiative,” Dr Sykes said.
“The Coalition Government recognises the social and economic contribution that recreational fishing makes to Victoria and we want to promote our state’s great fishing opportunities to the community and visitors.”
Highlights of this year’s festival include:

• Fireworks on the Friday night;
• The release of trout into the Eildon Pondage on the Saturday;
• Local experts providing advice about fishing for trout, redfin and native fish;
• Free fly fishing lessons;
• Children’s entertainment including face painting and a jumping castle;
• Fishing tackle and local produce displays; and
• Cooking demonstrations.
Dr Sykes said the focal point of the festival were the free guided tours of Fisheries Victoria’s hatchery at Snobs Creek, where fish are grown for the statewide stocking program.
“On Saturday, guided tours of the Snobs Creek fish hatchery will depart hourly from the Eildon Community Centre,” Dr Sykes said.
“Come along and see how we grow brown trout, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, Murray cod and the endangered Macquarie perch and trout cod.
“The hatchery is one of Australia’s most diverse and the free tours are a rare opportunity to get behind the scenes and understand how it’s all done.”
As well as promoting recreational fishing and providing fisheries education, the Coalition’s Recreational Fishing Initiative is also funding boating facility upgrades, more fish stockings, the construction of fish cleaning tables, the installation of fishing reefs into bays and inlets and increased fisheries education across the state.
State Liberal Member of Parliament, Cindy McLeish said, “Fishing is a healthy outdoor activity for the entire family and contributes significantly to regional communities, which is why we are investing in projects like this.
“I look forward to being a part of the activities at this year’s Goulburn Fishing Festival and opening the festival with Bill Sykes on Friday 5 September at the Eildon Community Centre.”
Dr Sykes concluded, “The Coalition Government has done more to improve recreational fishing in Victoria in three-and-a-half years than the previous Labor government achieved in a decade.”
For more information visit