Baw Baw Shire Council has secured support from various Federal candidates ahead of the Federal Election for priority infrastructure, including a new cultural precinct to meet the demands of a growing population.

Mayor of Baw Baw Shire, Cr Michael Leaney, met with three Federal candidates, seeking to represent the region in the upcoming election, to discuss Council’s key advocacy priorities and seek their support.

Candidates included the incumbent Federal Member for Monash, Russell Broadbent MP, Labor candidate, Jessica O’Donnell, and Voices for Monash candidate, Deb Leonard.

High on the list of priorities is Stage 1 of the proposed Baw Baw Culture and Connection Precinct adjacent to the West Gippsland Arts Centre in Civic Park, Warragul. 

The $30 million multi-level library and learning facility is the largest single undertaking in Council’s history, and would deliver:

  • A new community library, including a children’s library, maker’s space, video gaming, reading, collection and study areas
  • Art and cultural space
  • Community meeting rooms
  • Co-working spaces
  • A café
  • A rooftop terrace
  • Public amenities such as parent’s room and Changing Places facility
  • Plaza and pedestrian connection to the West Gippsland Arts Centre
  • Underground parking

Council has pledged $10 million towards the project and is now seeking $10 million in matching support from both the State and Federal Governments.

So far, the Victorian Government has pledged $3.5 million towards the project, while Council currently has an active $10 million grant application lodged with the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund.

In a major boost to Council’s efforts, the three candidates said they would put their support behind this key piece of social infrastructure and pledged to lobby on Baw Baw’s behalf.

Cr Leaney said Baw Baw Shire Council welcomed the candidates’ pledged support with open arms and is open to engaging with all potential candidates to ensure they are fully aware of the community’s needs and priorities.

“Regardless of who is in government, one thing does not change: Baw Baw Shire is one of the fastest growing regions in Victoria,” Cr Leaney said.

Ms O'Donnell and Mayor Leaney

Labor candidate for Monash Jessica O’Donnell and Mayor Michael Leaney discuss the Baw Baw Culture and Connection precinct at the proposed site in Civic Park, Warragul. Image: courtesy of Baw Baw Shire Council.

“Our population is exploding – it is set to nearly double over the next 15 to 20 years. That growth is simply more than our infrastructure can cope with. Without State and Federal Government support to match that growth, we cannot keep up.

“The pressure and demands on our existing social infrastructure is falling behind the needs of our growing population. We are talking about things like community meeting spaces, art and cultural spaces, public amenities, and parking.

“The Baw Baw Culture and Connection Precinct will deliver this and more. It is a multi-use community connection space that will serve our community for generations to come. 

“We are calling on all levels of government to help us get this project over the line.”

Speaking on the site of the proposed facility, Federal Member for Monash, Russell Broadbent, said projects like this maximise opportunities for community connectedness and provide vital social infrastructure that will service the rapidly growing community for generations to come.

“The multi-use site provides flexibility to support a broad range of uses and will play an important role in preserving this region as a great place to live, work and play,” Mr Broadbent said.

Ms O’Donnell also publicly backed the project. 

“Local Government plays such a vital role in delivering services and infrastructure for the community,” Ms O’Donnell said. 

“There are multiple infrastructure projects in the pipeline across Monash, particularly in the growth areas like Baw Baw.

“I thank Council for inviting me to hear about the needs of the community in Baw Baw and I look forward to working with them in advocating for these projects – including what will be a magnificent Culture and Connection Precinct.”

Ms Leonard and Mayor Leaney

Voices for Monash candidate Deb Leonard discusses Baw Baw Shire Council’s advocacy priorities with Mayor Michael Leaney. Image: courtesy of Baw Baw Shire Council.

Voices for Monash candidate, Deb Leonard, said it is a wonderful project with huge community benefits. 

“As a community-nominated candidate, I applaud Baw Baw Shire’s commitment to improving facilities within the Shire through the building of the Cultural and Community Precinct,” Ms Leonard said.

“I will also be a strong advocate for other Baw Baw projects, especially in high growth areas such as Drouin. Easing traffic congestion through the centre of Drouin is a major concern to residents of the area, and I will advocate for funding to address this also.”

Buoyed by the pledged support, the project will continue towards the next major milestone with the appointment of a Project Reference Group (PRG) following a call to the community for expressions of interest.

Made up of community members and key stakeholders, when appointed the PRG will help inform the design of the facility and ensure that it meets the specific needs of the community and user groups.

Featured image: Mayor Michael Leaney and Russell Broadbent MP discuss the proposed Baw Baw Culture and Connection Precinct, for which Council is seeking $10 million in Federal Government support. Image: courtesy of Baw Baw Council

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