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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, October 20, 2014
• Victorian Coalition Government providing $271,500 from $1 billion Regional Growth Fund for Merton Hall Refurbishment Project
• Project to rejuvenate community facility will boost economy and provide jobs during construction
• The Regional Growth Fund has delivered almost $440 million, generating over $1.8 billion of total investment across 1600 projects
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes today announced that the Victorian Coalition Government is investing $271,500 from the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund to rejuvenate the 91 year-old Merton Memorial Hall.
Making the announcement on behalf of the Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan, Dr Sykes said, “The Merton Memorial Hall has been a focal point for the small community of Merton since 1923.
“Over almost a century of use the building has reflected the dynamics of an ever changing country town – from hosting children’s nativity plays to becoming a refuge during bushfires.
“Unfortunately, due to its current state of disrepair, the hall is not used as fully as it once was.
“This project will greatly improve the functionality of the building and modernise its amenities and appearance.”
Member for Seymour Cindy McLeish said, “It will give residents of Merton new and improved facilities to enjoy, fostering greater connections within the growing community.
“The project will also create jobs and provide local businesses with work during the construction phase.”
Nationals candidate for Eildon Mr Child said the extensive upgrade of the Hall would include removing asbestos before building works begin, replastering, painting, roofing and insulating the existing building, reconfiguring the space, rewiring the building and installing heating and cooling, the addition of a kitchen, toilets and veranda, and landscaping that includes, paving, rear parking and a barbecue.
Mr Ryan said Victorian Government funding towards the $362,000 Merton Hall Refurbishment project would be provided through the Regional Growth Fund to Mansfield Shire Council, which would provide $68,625 through cash and in-kind. The balance of $21,875 would be provided by the Merton community.
“The Regional Growth Fund is investing in community-led projects to drive jobs, investment and innovation in rural and regional Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.
“Since it was established in 2011, the Regional Growth Fund has delivered almost $440 million, generating $1.8 billion of total investment across 1600 projects.”
In Mansfield Shire, the Regional Growth Fund has provided $3.4 million to 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;
• $169,500 for Yarck Hall upgrade; and
• $49,500 for the $61,895 Mansfield Community Leadership Program.
The project is expected to be complete in November 2016.


Monday, October 20, 2014
• An upgraded $71,840 community hall opens at Edi Upper, Wangaratta
• $23,000 from Regional Growth Fund supports new community hall
• $1 billion Regional Growth Fund continues to support regional Victoria
A newly upgraded community hall at Edi Upper has created a better venue to host local events, while boosting the surrounding economy, following a $23,000 investment from the Victorian Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.
Representing Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan, Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the $23,000 Edi Upper Hall and Recreation Reserve Upgrade would benefit the community of Edi Upper, following improvements to the electricity supply, lighting, construction of a covered barbeque and function area and the repositioning of a water tank.
Dr Sykes said Edi Upper is one of the most picturesque parts of Victoria and an area that he is very proud to have had as part of the Benalla electorate.
“The installation of an outdoor playground and the barbeque and function area would provide a great asset for future social events and community activities in a lovely setting.
“In addition the more the hall is put to use, the more revenue it will deliver into the local community and economy,” Dr Sykes said.
“The all-round donations and in-kind services toward this project have been outstanding and the Rural City of Wangaratta has done well to get this project completed.
“The Government is proud to have invested in this project and I acknowledge the support of the Rural City of Wangaratta who provided $25,000 and the community’s contribution of $11,650 in donations and $12,190 in in-kind support.”
Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan said the $23,000 in Victorian Government support was provided through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.
“This project is an example of the Victorian Government’s commitment to invest in community-led initiatives, while strategically driving jobs, investment and innovation in rural and regional Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.
“Since it was established in 2011, the Regional Growth Fund has supported 1600 projects, generating $1.8 billion of total investment.
“In the Wangaratta Rural City, the Regional Growth Fund has provided $6.9 million to 33 projects, leveraging $12.6 million in total investment. These projects include:
• $500,000 for the $600,000 King Valley Community Complex
• $275,000 for the $423,178 Eldorado Multi-Purpose Track and Tourism Facilities, and
Dr Sykes concluded that with the electoral boundary changes the King Valley will become part of the Ovens Valley electorate.
“My colleague the Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy will in all probability become the member for that area after the November 29 State election.”


Monday, October 20, 2014


Friday, October 17, 2014

• Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes today participated in the annual Marngrook footy game at Bright P-12 College.
• Dr Sykes also took the opportunity to recognise the Bangarang people who are traditional custodians of much of the Benalla electorate.
Dr Sykes joined local community members, Bright P-12 students, teachers and some boys from the Wadeye Aboriginal community which is located in the Daly River Reserve in the Northern Territory, at the annual Marngrook footy match.
“To participate properly in this match we wear only a lap-lap and some ceremonial skin paint as we pursue a stuffed possum-skin ball,” Dr Sykes said.
“This game is part of the Bright P-12 partnership with the Thathangathay Foundation and the Kindred Spirits Foundation which seeks to provide broader experiences to young people from Wadeye, a seriously disadvantaged Northern Territory community.
“The aim is to also encourage students to achieve to their potential.”
Local Bright students benefit by having the opportunity to visit Wadeye and learn about their rich Aboriginal culture.
“Well done to Justin and Bec Crawley and the whole Bright community. It is a great project,” Dr Sykes said.
Dr Sykes also said that his experiences with the Bangerang people, traditional custodians of much of the Benalla electorate along with the Taungerong, Dhudhuroa and Yorta Yorta, had made a strong and lasting impression on him.
“I have worked with and formed great respect for the Bangerang people in Benalla. People such as Uncle Sandy Atkinson, Vicki, Marlene, Freddie Dowling, Jane, Kevin Atkinson, Uncle Wally Cooper and his boys Kevin and Jesse.
“Uncle Wally has a great ability to connect our cultures, highlighted by the words he uses when he does a welcome to country. He highlights that, ‘We walk across this country together’.
“One of my most treasured memories is from earlier this year, when with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I met with over 100 Bangerang people in Benalla.
“We met four generations of proud, caring people with a very strong connection to their country.
“I wish them well in their application to become a registered Aboriginal party, which is currently being considered by the Aboriginal Heritage Council.”


Friday, October 17, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes in Parliament this week requested that the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Peter Ryan support a bid by the Yarck community to fund infrastructure upgrades in the township.
“As my colleague, the Member for Seymour Cindy McLeish, knows full well Yarck is on the Maroondah Highway between Merton and Murrindindi and Molesworth,” Dr Sykes said.
“It is a beautiful part of the world with a small yet strong community of a few hundred people.
“It is a community that people going up to the snowfields on Mt Buller and Mt Stirling often pop into for a cup of coffee.”
Dr Sykes said the town has a number of businesses including the Giddy Goat Café, Yarck General Store, the Yarck Hotel and a book store.
“We also have a number of businesses that generate a lot of money for the local economy including Keath’s Excavations.
“There are various other community facilities such as a recreation reserve and war memorial and a hall at which the Member for Seymour joined me to announce $169,000 from the Regional Growth Fund for the upgrade to the hall.”
The Nationals, in coalition, have delivered substantially for local communities throughout north east Victoria particularly through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.
This includes $8,860 for the Jamieson Hall fire shelter upgrade, $90,000 for Maindample Community Park project, $75,580 for the Tolmie Tea Rooms, $500,000 for the Mansfield Community Gathering Place. In addition the Bonnie Doon Community Centre has recently received an extra $27,000 to increase its weekly operational hours to 20.
The funding for Yarck would involve further landscaping of the streetscape, signage and pathways and placement of outdoor furniture to accommodate visitors and bike riders using the Great Victorian Rail Trail.
“Yarck is one of the key locations on that trail which is a magnificent connector between Mansfield in the high country through to Yea and Alexandra to Tallarook.
“If we can put in place this infrastructure we will have a more vibrant community that locals will be pleased to call home and that visitors will be pleased to call in to.
“Along with my colleague Cindy McLeish and the Nationals candidate for the area Jim Child I seek the support of the Minister to help kick this little community along.”
The Minister for State Development Peter Ryan has responded to this request and said that the project was certainly in the nature of the sort of projects supported through the Regional Growth Fund since 2010.
“As is the case with all those that come to the fund, the application will be carefully assessed however in the first instance it seems to be very worthy of being supported and I commend the Member for bringing it before the house,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan also congratulated Dr Sykes for a distinguished period of some 12 years of service as the Member for Benalla.
“The matter he raises to support the development of Yarck reflects the extraordinary concern he has demonstrated to his communities over this time. I wish him well, which I am sure reflects a perspective that is held throughout his electorate of Benalla.”


Friday, October 10, 2014
Dear Editor

Labor has made much of its pledge to spend $200 million on regional jobs initiatives and $1 billion on regional roads, but let’s look more closely.

The regional jobs initiatives Labor “announced” are already reality under the Coalition’s Regional Growth Fund. Regional Development Victoria manages 18 regional offices which ‘facilitate investment, jobs and exports, creating a local contact point for businesses, council and community groups’ and has a Business Engagement Team which helps grow regional business and investment.

Yet Labor openly says it will axe the Regional Growth Fund. The growth fund has already delivered 5000 regional jobs, and will deliver another $500 million in direct investment to regional Victoria over the next term of government – far more than the $200 million it claims it will spend on regional jobs strategies which are already running.

In the electorate of Benalla, specifically Alpine, Mansfield, Murrindindi and Strathbogie Shire councils and Benalla Rural City, the Regional Growth Fund has invested $26,382,372 into 131 community-nominated projects worth a total of $65,148,815.

This includes investing $5 million for the Benalla Education Regeneration P-12 project, $500,000 for Nagambie streetscape, $300,000 for both Avenel Recreation Reserve and Euroa Conference and Function Centre, $500,000 for Mansfield Community Gathering Place and $800,000 for the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing.

Labor’s pamphlets state it will spend $1 billion on regional roads is over eight years – $125 million a year. This year, the Coalition invested $500 million in roads maintenance. Labor is actually promising to cut roads maintenance budgets by up to 75 per cent.

Labor will scrap the Country Roads and Bridges program ($160 million) and refuses to build the Murray Basin Rail Project (up to $220 million), which will standardise freight rail from Geelong to Mildura, connecting businesses and farms in north and west Victoria to Portland, Geelong and South Australia, creating jobs and investment.

Don’t be fooled. Labor will cut the country.

Yours sincerely

Bill Sykes
Member for Benalla 


Monday, October 06, 2014

Dear Editor

I write to congratulate Mansfield school teacher and agriculture advocate Julie Aldous for representing Victoria at the 2014 RIRDC Rural Women’s Awards at Parliament House in Canberra recently.
Ms Aldous attended the national award ceremony last week after winning the Victorian Rural Women’s Award in March this year.
The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award celebrates the achievements of rural women and recognises the work they do to drive innovation, productivity and sustainability in primary industries, in turn generating economic and social development in rural communities.

The 2014 awards again saw an impressive range of finalists from across Australia and while Julie didn’t take out the top prize, she can walk away very proud of what she has already achieved for rural Victoria and our primary industries.

Julie has dedicated a large part of her teaching career to promoting the wide variety of careers available in agriculture to young people, including her applied learning course ‘Agribusiness: The Mansfield Model’, which is designed to address the shortage of skilled young people in the agricultural sector.

The Victorian Coalition Government has set a target to double the state’s food and fibre production by 2030 and we can’t achieve that without the next generation of skilled farmers and agribusiness professionals, so I commend Julie for her vision and commitment.

The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to supporting and promoting women’s leadership in rural communities, industry and business.
Well done Julie.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Sykes
Member for Benalla
Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries


Monday, October 06, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes and Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy today commended the Alpine Shire for winning the Premier’s Community Award at the annual Sustainability Awards 2014 held in Melbourne on Friday 3 October.
Alpine Shire has taken out top honours for their Seedlings: Sustainability in the Early Years Project.
“Alpine Shire is leading by example and making our local area a cleaner and more liveable place to live and work,” Dr Sykes said.
Mr McCurdy said, “I congratulate the Council for their early learning sustainability program that is helping our children learn about sustainability at an even earlier age which is helping build a better and more sustainable Victoria.”
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith congratulated the winners and finalists across each of the awards' nine categories, saying that they represented Victoria's best and brightest sustainability leaders.
“These sustainability projects are further examples of how the Victorian Coalition Government is committed to supporting and inspiring Victorians to adopt sustainability measures in the workplace and at home,” Mr Smith said.
The Premier’s Sustainability Awards are Victoria’s highest honours for sustainability and recognise excellence in a range of sectors, including small to large business, education, community, environmental protection and the development of innovative products and services.
For more information visit


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

• Grants awarded under Napthine Government’s $16 million Driving Business Innovation program
• North East Catchment Management Authority to share in feasibility study funding
• Liberal National Coalition Government supporting business innovation

Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes announced today that the North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA), in partnership with Altrutec, would receive one of 11 grants of $75,000 under Round 1 of the Victorian Government’s Driving Business Innovation program.

Dr Sykes said the $16 million Driving Business Innovation program was funded in the 2013 State Budget and provides financial support for innovative small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to partner with a government agency to co-develop a new product or service in response to a particular technology challenge.

“Altrutec have received funding for their proposal to investigate a virtual fence that will reduce the costs of replacing fences lost in floods and fires, as well as reducing injuries to stock and wildlife from traditional fences.

“I have had discussions with Altrutec and I see many practical applications especially in flood prone areas such as my property which has 2km of creek frontage.

“Altrutec will work closely with NECMA to undertake a feasibility study into their proposal, which will then be assessed for a potential grant of up to $1 million to develop a proof-of-concept prototype,” Dr Sykes said.

Nationals candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan said the Driving Business Innovation program was designed to encourage innovative and emerging SMEs to undertake specific research and development projects for Victorian Government agencies and to explore new commercial opportunities.

“These 10 successful businesses were selected from a pool of 65 innovative Victorian companies which proposed solutions to challenges in areas including water, waste management, health and agriculture,” Ms Ryan said.

“It is exciting to see the innovative and ground-breaking ideas that are being pioneered, with successful proposals including a synthetic skin ‘scaffold’ for treating burns, the use of algae in the treatment of waste water, and a non-invasive lung imaging technology for very sick children.”

Feasibility study outcomes will be delivered later in 2014 then assessed for further proof-of-concept and commercialisation support.

The successful companies are:

Algae Enterprises will work with Melbourne Water to explore an innovative algae cultivation system to provide a treatment for liquid waste that will reduce costs and recover useful nutrients from the waste stream.

Altrutec will work with North East Catchment Management Authority to investigate a virtual fence that will reduce the costs of replacing fences lost in floods and fires, as well as reducing injuries to stock and wildlife from traditional fences.

Blue Curve will work with Melbourne Health to investigate a mobile solution that will allow real time sharing of blood glucose results to better manage inpatients with diabetes.

Draco Scientific will work with Melbourne Water to explore the use of low-powered, lightweight laser technology to allow measurement of gases released from sewage treatment ponds that are difficult to access.

Global Data Harvest will work with South East Water to investigate the use of a mechanically-tethered floating paddle to build a profile of waste water, particularly related to trade waste, such as paints and oils.

Grey Innovation received two grants. They will work with Alfred Health to investigate a light-weight device to provide an early warning of cardiac arrest. They will also work with the Royal Children’s Hospital to provide non-invasive real-time lung imaging of sick children.

Hydrix will work with Monash Health to investigate the development of a cost effective device designed to provide artificial heart function for at-risk cardiac patients.

NIESM will work with Melbourne Health to investigate a real-time wearable device to detect epileptic seizures in outpatients who are at risk.

PolyNovo will work with Alfred Health to investigate a synthetic biodegradable replacement for skin that will provide a ‘scaffold’ on which new tissue can grow, allowing more effective and less expensive treatment of burns.

Successful Endeavours will work with Melbourne Water to investigate the development of a chemically resistant suite of sensors that can transmit humidity, air flow and pressure data from inside the sewer, reducing cost of manual monitoring of the sewer.
More information about the program is available at: 


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Goulburn River near Kevington was today stocked with 5,000 brown trout as part of the Victorian Coalition Government’s investigation into the cause of declined trout populations in High Country rivers.
A further 5,000 brown trout will also be released into the Howqua River near Sheepyard Flat tomorrow.
Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries and Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the trout had been marked by volunteers from Mansfield and District Flyfishing Club prior to being released as part of the Wild Trout Fishery Management Program, allowing the stocked trout to be distinguished from wild fish spawned naturally in the river.
“Over the next three years, DEPI fisheries researchers will undertake annual backpack electro-fishing surveys at sites along the two stocked rivers to check the progress of the stocked fish and wild trout numbers,” Dr Sykes said.
“Anglers will also be interviewed along the riverbanks each year to determine the proportion of caught trout that are marked.
“All of this information is vital to inform the Wild Trout Fishery Management Program and help to establish what has contributed to reports of declined brown trout numbers in High Country rivers.”
Member for Seymour and Liberal candidate for Eildon Cindy McLeish said Victoria’s northeast and Gippsland trout rivers were highly valued by freshwater anglers, local communities, the tourism sector and the fishing tackle industry.
“This investigation also involves tracking trout in the Delatite River, conducting annual surveys of spawning success in 12 iconic trout rivers, and monitoring catch and harvest levels of trout,” Ms McLeish said.
“It is an extensive and thorough program of initiatives that will allow Fisheries Victoria to better understand why numbers of trout have declined and how populations can be improved.”
Further trout stockings in the two rivers is planned in 2015 and 2016 as part of the program, which is funded by fishing licence fees and the Coalition Government’s $16 million Recreational Fishing Initiative.
Nationals Candidate for Eildon Jim Child said the Victorian Coalition Government was committed to supporting and improving the state’s recreational fishing industry.
“The Coalition Government recognises the important social and economic contribution of recreational fishing and we are building a better Victoria by ensuring our state remains a top fishing destination for locals and visitors,” Mr Child said.
The brown trout released into the Upper Goulburn River were stocked over 26 kilometres from Jamieson upstream to Edwards Creek. In the Howqua River, the trout were released from Running Creek Reserve 10 kilometres upstream to Sheepyard Flat.
Mansfield and District Flyfishing Club President, Graham Godber, said being involved as volunteers in marking the brown trout, and then their release, was a partnership approach they valued with freshwater fisheries managers from Fisheries Victoria.
For more information visit