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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”

DISABLED SKIERS IMPRESS MINISTER DRUM

Friday, August 29, 2014
Minister for Sport and Recreation, Damian Drum was amazed and impressed by the talent and courage of disabled skiers such as Jess Gallagher when he visited Falls Creek on Saturday.
Mr Drum, as a former VFC footballer and ex Freemantle coach learned that Jess Gallagher, who is visually impaired, reached speeds of over 100km to win Bronze in the Slalom events at Sochi last year.
Mr Drum said, “Jess’ courage and faith in her guide puts the achievements of able bodied athletes into perspective.”
The Minister also visited Disability Wintersport Australia’s (DWA) facilities at Howmans Gap, just off the mountain from Falls Creek, and was shown plans for an accommodation block for 35 people.
President of DWA, Mr Jim Blackburn said, “With these facilities and support from ski lift companies and the Resort Management Board we can offer disabled skiers opportunities to ski at the same cost as able bodied people.
“That is, the extra cost of their carers and guides is covered.”
Local MP Bill Sykes said, “I too was impressed with the achievements of disabled skiers.
“And as Jess pointed out, by being able to mix with able bodied skiers both on the slopes and at Howmans Gap, disabled skiers feel very much a part of the snow scene.
“I look forward to the Minister giving serious consideration to DWA’s request for financial support for the very worthy project.”

NEW SCHEME PROMOTES ENVIRONMENTAL UPGRADES IN NORTH EAST VICTORIA

Friday, August 29, 2014
• New scheme to help business be more energy efficient, reduce waste, cut water use
• Environmental Upgrade Agreements deliver longer term and lower interest loans
• Loans for upgrades boost bottom line and help build a cleaner Victoria
The Victorian Coalition Government has introduced legislation that will help local businesses access funds to become more energy efficient, reduce waste and cut water use.
Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said the introduction of Environmental Upgrade Agreements (EUAs) would allow local councils such as Benalla Rural City, Strathbogie, Alpine and Mansfield Shires to offer a new financing mechanism to help businesses secure longer term and lower interest loans for environmental upgrades.
“This innovative scheme will encourage businesses to make significant environmental upgrades which will not only improve the efficiency of their buildings but will also boost their bottom line,” he said.
Dr Sykes said the extension of the scheme to all councils met a commitment in Plan Melbourne, Victoria’s metropolitan planning strategy.
Under the EUA scheme, lenders provide finance to a building owner for environmental upgrades and the local council then collects the repayments through its rates system and passes them on to the lender. Use of the council rates system means that loans are more secure, allowing lenders to offer long term low interest loans.
Minister for Energy and Resources Russell Northe said the scheme has already been working well in the City of Melbourne and the Coalition Government is now passing legislation to give councils across the state the opportunity to take part.
“The Coalition Government is putting in place practical and effective programs to promote energy and water efficiency, deliver reductions in waste and build a cleaner Victoria,” Mr Northe said.
“I would encourage councils and businesses across Victoria to take advantage of this scheme in order to access funds to improve their energy and water efficiency and reduce waste.”
Participation in the scheme is voluntary for councils. The Victorian Government will consult with councils, business groups and financiers on the details of implementation. 

LOCAL KINDERS RECEIVE INFRASTRUCTURE AND IT GRANTS

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes today welcomed the delivery of grants for local kindergartens throughout the Benalla Electorate through the Victorian Coalition Government’s minor infrastructure and IT grants.
Dr Sykes said, “This is great news for families and children at Avenel, Benalla, Euroa and Nagambie and it is good that the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, Wendy Lovell was able to visit some of these kindergartens to announce these grants.”
Local kindergartens to receive grants in this latest round of announcements include:
Avenel Preschool - $11.500 to refurbish its bathroom and purchase a new desktop computer;
Bernard Briggs Kindergarten, Benalla - $9,990 to install new shade sails in the playground;
Euroa Kindergarten - $7,700 to improve storage facilities and purchase a new desktop computer;
Munro Avenue Preschool, Benalla - $9,990 to create a new sensory garden and exploration area;
Nagambie Kindergarten - $11,500 to upgrade its storage facilities and purchase a new desktop computer; and
Ride Avenue Preschool, Benalla - $10,983 to expand the playground and line with hardy turf and to purchase a new laptop.
The grants are a result of the Victorian Coalition Government’s building a better Victoria by supporting 643 kindergartens and children’s centres to upgrade their facilities and IT systems through $2.9 million in grants.
The minor grants worth up to $10,000 each will enhance kindergarten programs by improving disability access, building better playgrounds, installing sensory gardens, building bigger playrooms and maximising storage space for centres.
The Information Technology grants worth up to $1,500 each will supply kindergartens across Victoria with around 200 desktop computers, 150 tablets, 80 laptops, 25 printers and 20 touch tables to better support early years teachers and staff.
Candidate for Euroa Electorate, Steph Ryan said, “These upgrades allow our kindergartens and preschool centres to upgrade their facilities and continue to provide the best possible early learning outcomes for children throughout north east Victoria.”
Minister Lovell said the grants were crucial to ensuring Victorian early years services can continue to deliver the world class learning programs.
“Victoria leads the nation in early childhood education and care and by improving early years facilities and infrastructure we are making Victoria an even better place for families to raise their children,” Ms Lovell said.
Since December 2010 a record $120 million has been invested in building and upgrading facilities across the state generating hundreds of jobs in building, construction and related industries.

NEW FUNDING SUPPORTS SAFER COMMUNITIES

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today that a number of local community groups will receive funding from a new Liberal Nationals Coalition Government crime prevention project that will support safer local communities.
Dr Sykes said the funding has been awarded through the latest round of the Coalition Government’s Community Safety Fund grants.
He said that the Coalition Government was supporting communities to fund local crime prevention initiatives that will deliver safer, more connected communities.
Successful projects are:
• Benalla Aviation Museum and Men’s Shed Inc - $3,795 for motion sensors, security lighting and alarms
• Cooinda Village Inc, Benalla - $8,000 for overhead street lighting to improve safety in the car park
• Benalla Hockey Association Inc - $2,317 for sensor lights to deter theft and property damage
• Benalla & District Preschool Partnership Inc - $4,944 for security sensor lighting at the Bernard Briggs Kindergarten campus
• Murchison and District Historical Society Inc - $1,367 for a security alarm system at the Murchison Heritage Centre
Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “Effective crime prevention requires residents, communities, businesses and all levels of government to work together to improve safety.
“Everyone needs to play their part, and we can all take some simple steps to secure our own property and get involved in local community action to help drive down crime.”
Minister for Crime Prevention, Edward O’Donohue said the Coalition Government’s Community Crime Prevention Program is about facilitating local solutions for local problems.
“Local communities know the community safety problems they are experiencing and know what the solutions are,” Mr O’Donohue said.
“This is about Main Street, not Spring Street, and we are here to help implement those local solutions.”
Dr Sykes said the Community Safety Fund supports local communities to implement practical projects to deter crime and promote safety.
“Community safety projects come in many different forms, from installing security features to undertaking community awareness activities,” he said.
“Over the past three years, the Coalition Government has provided more than $3.8 million to fund 588 projects across the state through the Community Safety Fund.”
The grants are part of the Coalition Government’s $35 million Community Crime Prevention Program, which helps promote community safety and prevent crime in communities across Victoria.
Mr O’Donohue also noted that a frontbench reshuffle by Daniel Andrews late last year saw the crime prevention portfolio removed from the shadow ministry.
“There could be no starker indication of how little Labor cares about community safety and crime prevention,” Mr O’Donohue said.
For further information, visit www.crimeprevention.vic.gov.au.

 

A GOOD CATCH AT NAGAMBIE FISHING FORUM

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes attended a fishing forum at Nagambie on Wednesday 27 August along with the Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan.
Over forty fishers, young and old, attended the forum which was held by Fisheries Victoria at the Nagambie Angling Clubrooms at Kirwans Bridge.
Dr Sykes said, “Those present welcomed proposed changes to Murray cod catch limits with the following suggestions;
• There should be a uniform bag limit of two (rather than the proposed two for lakes and pondages and one for rivers and streams; and
• The preferred length range of 50-70 centimetres should be harmonised with NSW which is proposed to be 60-80cms. A compromise of 55-75cms seemed appropriate.
Forum participants were also appreciative of the efforts of Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Fishers staff and the Coalition’s additional funding of $16 million over the past four years.
This funding has enabled massive restocking of waterways with trout and native fish and much improved access for fishers.
Fisheries Victoria projects include increased fish stocking, improved access and facilities, upgrades to boating facilities, installation of fish cleaning tables, improving fish passage and habitats, increased research and strengthening fisheries enforcement and education.
Nagambie Angling Club’s President, Wally Cubbin thanked Fisheries Victoria on behalf of all those present for presenting a well informed session and making the effort to engage with the local community and fishers.

SYKES ANNOUNCES OPENING OF FIREWOOD SEASON IN NORTH EAST VICTORIA

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla and Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries Bill Sykes has announced that the Spring firewood collection season will open across Victoria at the beginning of next month.
“From the 1 September, designated firewood collection areas will open after being closed during winter,” Dr Sykes said.
“Once collection sites open, Victorians will be able to collect firewood for domestic use until 30 November.
“Since 2011 firewood collection on public land has been made easier and more affordable under changes made by the Victorian Coalition Government.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has reduced the burden of red tape put in place under the previous Labor government, and made it easier for households to access an annual supply of firewood by abolishing useless permits.”
Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ryan Smith said that the Coalition Government recognises that firewood is an important source of heating for many Victorian homes during winter.
“By reducing red tape, the Coalition Government has helped reduce the cost of living for regional Victorians by removing red tape and providing cost effective measures to help Victorians warm their homes,” Mr Smith said.
“This is another example of how a Coalition Government is reducing needless red tape and delivering tangible benefits to local communities.”
Firewood collection is only permitted during designated times of the year and from designated firewood collection areas.
Firewood collected at these sites is for personal use only and cannot be sold. Official signs will display the rules and collection limits.
For more information and updates visit www.depi.vic.gov.au or call 136 186.

BILL ADDRESSES USE OF DANGEROUS CHEMICALS IN FRACKING

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 www.naturalgasinfo.vic.gov.au.

GRANYA WILD DOG COMMUNITY BAITING

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.

DONATION ENSURES L2P PROGRAM IS ACCESSIBLE TO MORE LEARNER DRIVERS

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.

GOOD NEWS FOR WASTE RECOVERY SERVICES IN NORTH EAST VICTORIA

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 www.depi.vic.gov.au