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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”


Monday, July 28, 2014
• Sporting shooting clubs in north east Victoria to share in $12.5 million fund
• Fund will co-invest with clubs to upgrade their facilities and attract events
• Victorian Coalition Government is supporting local sport
The Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today local shooting clubs could soon access a $12.5 million fund to expand or upgrade their facilities, purchase equipment or host events and tournaments.
Dr Sykes welcomed the recent announcement by Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan and Minister for Sport Damian Drum that the Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government’s would establish the $12.5 million Shooting Sports Facilities Program.
He said shooting was popular throughout north east Victoria with a number of strong shooting clubs in Benalla, Seymour, Nagambie, Glenrowan, Violet Town and Euroa.
Dr Sykes said, “Whether it is local shooting clubs or facilities in your area, this fund will improve our local amenities and encourage more regional Victorians to participate in the sport of shooting.”
Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “These grants will encourage more people to get more active in an environment that promotes safe and responsible firearms ownership.”
Dr Sykes said, “North east Victoria is particularly proud of its local sporting shooters which include Benalla’s James Corbett, winner of Her Majesty’s The Queen’s Prize in 2013 and currently competing in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Mansfield local Catherine Skinner who is also at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“Nick Kirley from Mansfield and Mansfield Secondary College student, Sally Kirley are also regarded as highly skilled competitive shooters.”
CEO of Field and Game Australia (Victoria) Rod Drew said, “We applaud the government for announcing this fund. Shooting sports have historically received little funding and this is a chance to improve facilities and secure the tenure of clubs.
“Shooting is a popular activity in north east Victoria and there will be clubs in the area who will be keen to make application for these funds to lift standards, facilities and attract new people to come into the sport.”
Dr Sykes said, “Others who have a keen local interest in sporting shooters include Russell Bate (Mansfield Field and Game) and Noel O’Connor and Rod Berger (Benalla Field and Game).”
Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan said the funding could be used to purchase land for the expansion of existing facilities or to secure tenure over existing facilities in order to improve the long term viability of the sport locally.
Mr Ryan said it could also be used for capital improvements at existing facilities, or to purchase major equipment to enable a local facility to host major events and increase participation.
“Minor projects will be able to receive up to $100,000 from the fund, with the Coalition Government offering $2 for every $1 put in by the club or another contributor, for example a local council,” Mr Ryan said.
“There is no cap on funding invested by Coalition Government into a major project, but the investment will need to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the club or another contributor.”
Minister for Sport Damian Drum said the Shooting Sports Facilities Program would assist shooting clubs and associations to increase participation and help participants from grass roots to the elite level.
“More than 20,000 Victorians participate in competitive shooting events each year, and we have a proud history of producing Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games medallists, with Russell and Lauryn Mark, Adam Vella and Peter Tait all flying the flag,” Mr Drum said.
“The Coalition Government is helping shooting clubs develop better facilities, host big events and give more people the opportunity to be participants, coaches, and volunteers,” Mr Drum said.
Dr Sykes said an advisory committee, chaired by Mr David Hawker AO, would be established to assess project applications and provide specialist advice on the sport's specific and strategic needs.
Details of the program will be finalised following the establishment of the advisory committee.


Friday, July 25, 2014
Recreational anglers can learn more about local fisheries and share ideas about improving fishing opportunities at a public forum to be held at Nagambie next month.
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the Fisheries Victoria roundtable forum would be held on 27 August to both inform anglers and hear their ideas or concerns.
“The Victorian Coalition Government recognises the importance of our state’s recreational fishing industry and we are committed to improving fishing opportunities for Victoria’s 721,000 licensed fishers,” Dr Sykes said.
“This public roundtable forum is part of a state-wide tour by Fisheries Victoria to listen to anglers and also update them on research findings, new regulations, trout and native fish stockings and new facilities.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “The Coalition Government’s $16 million Recreational Fishing Initiative is improving recreational fishing through projects to stock more fish, improve access and facilities, upgrade boating facilities, install fish cleaning tables, improve fish passage, undertake more research and strengthen fisheries enforcement and education.
“A key focus of the Initiative is to strengthen engagement with fishers – whether they are bait-anglers in our bays and inlets, fly-fishers in our lakes and rivers or spear-fishers off the coast.”
By working with anglers to improve fishing opportunities across the state, the Coalition Government is building a better Victoria. Recreational fishing makes a significant contribution to local economies by supporting hotels, petrol stations, supermarkets, and bait and tackle stores.
Dr Sykes said, “By supporting, improving and encouraging recreational fishing in Victoria, we are boosting regional economies and helping communities to thrive.”
Forums last year with Fisheries Victoria and VRFish generated many ideas for improving fishing across Victoria.
“These ideas from ‘grass-root’ anglers are often the first step towards developing new projects that deliver significant benefits to recreational fishers and the regional businesses that depend on them,” Dr Sykes said.
“We want anglers to share their project ideas so that wetting a line close to home is easier, safer and more enjoyable for beginners, experts and families.”
The public forum will be held at the Nagambie Angling Club, McLeod Street, Kirwans Bridge, from 7pm-9pm on 27 August.
For more information visit  


Friday, July 25, 2014

• Coalition Government continues to support Victoria’s small businesses
• A number of seminars and sessions available in the north east
• Sykes calls for businesses to make the most of opportunities
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes today called for small businesses and individuals interested in starting or expanding a small business to consider participating in some of the events as part of the 2014 Small Business Festival Victoria.
Dr Sykes said the festival is a month long Victorian Coalition Government initiative from 1 to 31 August that delivers workshops, seminars and networking events for businesses across Victoria with a number of events being held in north east Victoria.
“The festival is designed to showcase business and industry within Victoria and bring together a wide range of people to network, share ideas, develop new skills, foster better business practices and promote investment opportunities across the state.
“Seminars and workshops will be held in Benalla, Bright and Mansfield covering topics including social media and marketing, how to start and grow a business, networking, and business planning and development.”
Dr Sykes said the Victorian Coalition Government was strongly committed to the strength and sustainability of small business because of the vital role it plays in the Victorian economy.
“The festival acts as a platform to showcase the many programs and services offered by the Coalition Government that are in place to assist small businesses improve productivity and competitiveness.”
Dr Sykes said the Benalla Electorate was fortunate to have innovative and productive businesses throughout who work hard to provide quality products and services to both their local communities and visitors.
“The 2014 festival program aims to improve the productivity of these small businesses by providing ideas, information and opportunities.
“I encourage small business operators and those interested in establishing a small business to participate in an exciting month of events and make the most of the opportunities provided through the festival,” Dr Sykes concluded.

Event information and the official guide are available online at or by calling the Victorian Business Line on 13 22 15.


Friday, July 25, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today the Victorian Coalition Government continues to improve fishing opportunities in north east Victoria by allocating more than $400,000 from the 2014/15 Recreational Fishing Grants Program to local projects.
“The Victorian Coalition Government recognises the significant economic, social and cultural benefits of recreational fishing and is committed to ensuring our state remains a top fishing destination for locals and visitors,” Dr Sykes said.
Funded projects in north east Victoria are;
• $209,249 – increase fish habitat and prevent bank erosion in the King River;
• $83,600 – assess benefits of in-stream habitat works for fish populations in the Goulburn catchment;
• $72,400 – evaluate status of the Murray crayfish recreational fishery including the Mitta Mitta, Kiewa, Ovens and Goulburn rivers; and
• $35,222 – increase fish habitat in the Ovens River.
Dr Sykes said, “Recreational fishing is enjoyed by thousands of Victorian individuals and families and builds stronger regional economies by supporting local bait and tackle stores, supermarkets, hotels and petrol stations.”
Member for Murray Valley and candidate for the electorate of Ovens Valley, Tim McCurdy said, “I and my colleague Bill Sykes have been working closely with the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, VRFish and local recreational fishing groups to support local fishing initiatives. I congratulate Mr Russell Bird, King Valley Tourism Association for his ongoing efforts to increase fish habitats and prevent bank erosion in the King River.
“The project in the Ovens River aims to enhance the value of the river at Harrietville as a fishing destination through works such as creating fish resting areas, habitat niches and encouraging aquatic plant growth.”
Candidate for the electorate of Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “The project along the Goulburn River aims to investigate long term benefits of habitat works to fish populations in the river. It is anticipated that the outcome of this assessment will provide benefits to fish communities in the Goulburn catchment.”
Dr Sykes said, “More than $3.6 million raised from the sale of fishing licences is being allocated to community projects this year to improve recreational fishing across Victoria.
“The Coalition Government believes it is important to invest proceeds from the sale of licences directly back into the pastime fishers enjoy. This includes funding projects around fishing access and facilities, fish stocking, sustainability and habitat, education, enforcement, and research.
“Many of these projects will be carried out in partnership with local organisations that have identified opportunities to improve recreational fishing in their community – so these grants are a great example of the Government and community working together to achieve the best outcome.”
The Recreational Fishing Grants Program includes year-round small grants, as well as annual large grants and commissioning programs for major projects.
$1.7 million of the funding had been allocated to 21 large community projects this year, while almost $2 million would fund broader state-wide projects including fish stocking, fisheries surveys and education to support local projects.
“All of this is top of the Coalition Government’s $16 million Recreational Fishing Initiative, which is funding the installation of fish cleaning tables, expansion of angler access, construction of fishing reefs, improvement of fish passageways and strengthened fisheries enforcement and education,” Dr Sykes said.
To see a full list of fishing licence fees at work in 2013-14 visit:  


Friday, July 25, 2014
A multi-agency effort to improve fish habitat in Hollands Creek near Benalla has paid off with a dramatic increase in native fish numbers including the threatened Macquarie Perch.
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the rehabilitation of the waterway had reinstated habitat (including rocks and snags), installed fencing to control stock access to the creek, removed pest plants such as willows, and planted 3200 native shrubs along the creek bank.
“Since 2007 we have rehabilitated Hollands Creek to improve water quality and provide crucial habitat to support increased populations of native fish including Macquarie Perch, Two-spined Blackfish and River Blackfish,” Dr Sykes said.
“I welcome the project’s findings as it is important to manage Victoria’s waterways sustainably.
“Annual monitoring by DEPI’s Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) has found the populations of Macquarie Perch and Two-spined Blackfish have increased more than tenfold since the project began. River Blackfish numbers have increased fourfold.
“This is a great outcome, and I pay tribute to all the local community groups who have worked on this project. Without the support of the community this work could never have been achieved.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “This is a great example of what can be achieved when communities and agencies work together for a common goal, in this case the improved fish habitat in the Hollands Creek.”
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the project had received funding through the State Healthy Waterways Initiative, Flood Response program and the Drought Employment Program.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has invested more $500,000 into this project and it’s great to see research highlighting its success. The project has also received around $500,000 in funding since 2007 through the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Native Fish Strategy,” Mr Smith said.
“This is a tangible example of the Coalition Government’s commitment to practical and measured environmental management that delivers great environmental results by promoting effective partnerships.
“Thank you to the collaborative work at Hollands Creek that includes the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Tatong-Mollyulah Landcare Group, local landholders and Tatong Angling Club.”
Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica) is listed as a threatened species in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee (FFG) Act.


Friday, July 25, 2014
• Regional Growth Fund delivers a record 1,500 projects
• RGF has invested in multiple projects across the Benalla Electorate leveraging millions of dollars in total investment
• Coalition Government achieved in three years what Labor couldn’t in 11 years
The Victorian Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund has reached its 1500th project milestone.
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes and candidate for the Euroa electorate Steph Ryan today welcomed Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan’s announcement last week that the Coalition Government’s Regional Growth Fund had funded its record 1,500th project.
“Over the past three years, the Regional Growth Fund has invested almost $420 million to support 1,500 projects, leveraging $1.7 billion in total investment,” Dr Sykes said.
“It is supporting local projects such as hall upgrades, upgrades to local parks and gardens, rail trails, tourism projects, repairing historical buildings and new community hubs.
“It is helping local councils build and repair bridges, footpaths and roads, and investing in local businesses and farming enterprises to boost exports and create new jobs.”
Steph Ryan said, “The key to the Regional Growth Fund is that the Victorian Coalition Government does not dictate to communities what sorts of projects it should fund, rather it is up to communities to identify key projects that will provide significant benefits locally.
“This ensures the Regional Growth Fund invests in projects that are championed by the community and deliver real benefits to local people.”
Dr Sykes said in the Benalla Electorate the Regional Growth Fund had invested millions of dollars to deliver significant projects across the north east region.
This has included:
• Benalla Library/Civic Centre Conversion - $1 million
• Benalla Aquatic Centre redevelopment - $904,075
• Benalla Town Hall Restoration - $300,000
• Winton Motor Raceway infrastructure development - $300,000
• Revitalisation of Tatong – community hub development - $283,000
• Transforming Swanpool - $270,000
• Benalla Performing Arts and Convention Centre refurbishment - $237,000
• Benalla Enterprise Park Industrial Estate development - $150,000
• Benalla skate park redevelopment - $200,000
• Bertalli’s Alpine Breads Benalla - $75,000
• Benalla Airport Masterplan - $110,000
• D&R Henderson Benalla – Henshaw log rotator - $150,000
• Strathbogie Shire – road reseal and rehabilitation projects 2011-2015 - $1.4 million
• Violet Town transfer station - $315,260
• Avenel Recreation Reserve Stage 1 redevelopment - $300,000
• Euroa Conference and Function Centre redevelopment - $300,000
• Euroa Traveller and RV comfort stop - $300,000
• Euroa Memorial Park redevelopment - $150,000
• Costa Exchange mushroom farm expansion in Strathbogie Shire - $100,000
• Boho multi use CFA facility - $60,000
• Nagambie Streetscape - $500,000
• Goulburn Valley Rail Trail (Murchison to Rushworth) - $150,000
Dr Sykes said Daniel Andrews and the Labor Party plan to scrap the Regional Growth Fund if they are elected to government in November, sending regional and rural Victoria backwards.
“Without the Regional Growth Fund, key local projects such as hall upgrades, redeveloped parks and gardens, vital industry support, rail trails, tourism initiatives, repairing historical buildings, new community hubs, or funding for bridges, footpaths and roads would not have been possible,” he said.
“Regional and rural communities are only now beginning to recover for 11 years of Labor neglect, they cannot risk another four years of Labor.”


Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Mansfield tomato grower Murphy Fresh has been given a significant funding boost as part of the Victorian Government’s Grow Your Business funding for small businesses.
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes was joined by the Member for Seymour and candidate for the Electorate of Eildon, Cindy McLeish in announcing that the company had been awarded an $11,475 grant, which is designed to increase its productivity.
“Established in 1998, Murphy Fresh is a leading hydroponic tomato growing business,” Dr Sykes.
“The business grows, packages and distributes more than three million kilograms of premium grade truss-grown tomatoes per annum for the domestic fresh fruit and vegetable market.
“As a result of receiving the grant, Murphy Fresh will undertake a Business Development Plan and Business Strategic Review, both of which are designed to pinpoint future growth opportunities.”
Ms McLeish said, “This assistance will enable the company to analyse many key aspects of the business, including management, packing, human resources, sales, distribution and customer service.”
Minister for Small Business Russell Northe said eligible businesses with a commitment to strategic planning and future growth can apply for a grant.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to supporting small businesses in reaching their growth aspirations. The Grow Your Business program provides practical assistance to help them achieve that goal,” Mr Northe said.
“There are 77,000 more jobs in small businesses across Victoria than there were in 2010. That’s because we are building a more productive and better Victoria by providing the economic conditions for small businesses to grow.”
This assistance builds on a Victorian Coalition Government grant through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund of $150,000 which was provided to Murphy Fresh in 2013 to expand its operations.
For more information on Grow Your Business and other Victorian Government support programs, go to or call 13 22 15.


Thursday, July 17, 2014
• Natural gas open day for north east Victoria
• An independent facilitator to oversee all sessions
• Victorian Coalition Government committed to consulting with the local community about onshore natural gas
The Victorian Coalition Government has announced the next stage of the onshore natural gas community and stakeholder engagement program, Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today.
An open day will be held in Wangaratta on Tuesday 29 July 2014 at the Wangaratta Uniting Church Hall, 10 Rowan Street from 2pm to 8pm.
The open days provide an opportunity for people to share their views with independent facilitators about a potential onshore natural gas industry in Victoria, as well as accessing factual information from technical specialists, including geologists and hydrogeologists.
Dr Sykes said, “A number of local constituents have raised their concerns with me in relation to coal seam gas mining including from areas such as Hansonville, Meadow Creek and Taminick.
“I welcome the Victorian Coalition Government’s commitment to engage with the community and want to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues before making decisions on this important matter.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “I encourage anyone who has an interest in learning more about onshore gas to participate in the community engagement program which will also provide an opportunity to put forward local views on this important matter.”
The independent facilitators are focusing on consulting with people living in districts that are more likely to contain unconventional gas, but anyone from other districts is also welcome to attend.
Further engagement activities will include meetings with community groups, local government and farmers, and workshops to discuss specific issues in greater depth.
Feedback can also be provided at any time through the natural gas information website at
Water science studies are also being conducted alongside the community engagement process, examining the impacts of potential onshore natural gas developments on Victoria’s water resources.
For more information about upcoming open days and events as well as the Victorian water science studies visit


Thursday, July 17, 2014
• Victorian Coalition Government provides nearly $50,000 for fence and deck improvements at Benalla Racing Club
• Works scheduled for completion before first spring race meeting on 16 September
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes today announced an investment of nearly $100,000 in two projects at Benalla racecourse - a new deck to bring racegoers closer to the racing action and perimeter fencing to provide a safer racing environment.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has supported these important upgrades to ensure Benalla racecourse continues to maintain the highest possible safety standards and attract good crowds,” Dr Sykes said.
“The new deck is a great investment for the Benalla Racecourse that will enhance the race day experience for patrons and also make the racecourse an attractive venue to host a range of non-racing functions.
“The new deck’s positioning will provide patrons with a great view of the track and will be a fantastic addition for the club and the local community.”
Benalla Racing Club President Greg McNulty said the funding would enable the club to enhance its on-course facilities, providing another attractive option when attending a race meeting in Benalla.
“With more people attending Benalla meetings, visitors will stay longer in our community, and this will also benefit local businesses,” Mr McNulty said.
It is anticipated that the new deck will be completed ahead of the club’s first spring race meeting on 16 September and will be a much sought after spot for the Benalla Cup meeting on 5 October.
The Coalition Government is providing $32,500 towards the new decking through its Victorian Racing Industry Fund, with the Benalla Racing Club contributing the remaining $32,500 towards the total project cost of $65,000.
The racecourse will also benefit from the installation of over 550 metres of 1.8 metre high chainmesh fencing and two new and enhanced access gates to the racecourse road boundary.
Candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan also welcomed this investment from the Victorian Coalition Government.
“The safety of everyone involved in race day activities – jockey, trainers, horses and patrons – is paramount,” Ms Ryan said.
“Improved perimeter fencing will reduce the likelihood of a horse getting out onto the road and provide a safer environment for those using nearby roads,” she said.
Country Racing Victoria Chief Executive, Scott Whiteman offered thanks to the Victorian Government for its contribution to this important project.
“The new perimeter fencing at Benalla will secure the boundary between the racecourse and the road, providing a safer working environment for all industry participants while also ensuring the welfare of the general public and surrounding road users,” Mr Whiteman said.
The Coalition Government is providing $16,850 for the fencing upgrades through its Victorian Racing Industry Fund, with the Benalla Racing Club and Racing Victoria contributing the balance towards the total project cost of $33,700.
Premier of Victoria and Minister for Racing Denis Napthine said the Coalition Government was a strong supporter of country racing and was committed to growing the economic and social benefits arising from the racing industry and assisting country racing clubs with infrastructure improvements.
“The racing industry provides an economic benefit of $227 million to the Goulburn region which includes over 2,200 full-time jobs and direct participation of more than 8,300 people,” he said.
“The Victorian Government’s $79.5 million Victorian Racing Industry Fund, derived from unclaimed wagering dividends and on-course wagering taxes, is critical to growing these economic benefits.”


Thursday, July 17, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today Victorian local governments are invited to seek funding from a new Transport Accident Commission (TAC) grants program designed to reduce deaths and injuries on local roads.
Councils can apply for money for local projects to improve safety for their community’s riders and pedestrians through the new LGA Small Infrastructure Grants Program.
Dr Sykes said the program was aimed at preventing residents in north east Victoria from being injured on local roads.
“This program is about encouraging local solutions to the local safety concerns of cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.
“Cyclists and pedestrians account for more than 1,600 injuries across the state each year. The Coalition Government recognises the value of addressing this at a local level.
“Local government authorities are well-placed to understand local issues and are connected with local community groups who understand where safety improvements are required,” he said.
Local governments can apply for grants of up to $25,000 for planning and researching innovative safety treatments. Councils with plans already in place are eligible to apply for matched-funding grants of up to $100,000 to cover the cost of developing the new infrastructure.
The Nationals candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan said, “This is a fantastic initiative that provides area-wide or route-based solutions. An example might be a gateway project that indicates to motorists that they are entering a high-pedestrian zone, or it could be new crossings or bike paths to separate cyclists from cars,” she said.
TAC claims data shows that children and middle aged men are most at risk of being injured while cycling. Injuries resulting in a trip to hospital are most likely to occur at intersections (30 per cent), followed by riders being struck from behind by a car or other motorised vehicle moving in the same direction (25 per cent).
Assistant Treasurer, Mr Rich-Phillips said the new program was a commitment in the Coalition Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2013-2022.
“The public told us that more bike lanes and paths and more pedestrian crossings were needed,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.
Victorian local governments have until August 30 to submit an application for a share of the $1 million in TAC funding available in the first round of the annual grants program.
The LGA Small Infrastructure Grants Program was developed in consultation with local councils, the Municipal Association of Victoria, VicRoads and other stakeholders, including Victoria Walks, Bicycle Network Victoria and the RACV.
Local government authorities and community groups wanting more information can visit For more information about the Victorian Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2013-2022 visit: