State budget ‘disappointing’ for Geelong

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allen. (Supplied)

By Matt Hewson

There were slim pickings in the state budget for the Geelong region this week.

The Allan government’s Helping Families theme looked to recognise the cost-of-living pressures affecting many households across the state in its more than $318.6 million 2024-25 state budget.

Budget benefits for the Geelong region include two new schools to be built in Charlemont and Armstrong Creek by 2026 and 72 out of 400 new social and affordable homes to be built in Waurn Ponds.

The Gordon TAFE will also benefit from an additional $550 million investment in TAFE training and $4 million allocated to maintain the Kardinia Park Stadium.

The budget investment also prepares for the Nyaal Banyul Geelong Convention and Event Centre, a huge new events space, opening in 2026 to bring conferences, entertainment and live music to the city.

The state government will also invest $133.4 million to support the regional rail network, which includes upgrading the 150-year-old historic rail tunnel between Geelong and South Geelong.

Transport connection in the Geelong region shows limited improvement through the budget, with no regional road funding allocated for the area.

Services won’t be increased on the Geelong Warrnambool Line, and the doubling of weekend train services to Geelong promised in the last budget won’t come until next year.

The Melbourne Airport link will be on hold for at least another four years, with no commitments made for a rail connection to service Avalon.

The future of the Torquay Community Hospital remains unclear, with the treasurer confirming that the project was under review.

Geelong Region Alliance (G21) chief executive Giulia Baggio said there were a few bright spots for the region, including the investment in new primary schools and The Gordon, acknowledging the difficulties faced by the state government.

But Ms Baggio said the lack of transport connections in the region were “a major pain” that would impede Geelong’s growth and development, with no funding for regional roads, no increase of service on the Geelong-Warrnambool train line and no Melbourne Airport link..

“Cancellation of the Fast Rail project has not been replaced with any meaningful commitment to other transport connections for our fast-growing communities,” she said.

“Enormous expenditure on metropolitan projects…benefits no one in our region.”

Greens MLC for Western Victoria, Dr Sarah Mansfield, said Labor had released a “do-nothing budget that once again ignores the needs of rural and regional people in Victoria”.

““If you’re struggling to pay the rent and afford groceries, this budget condemns you to continued financial stress,” she said.

“There is no new money for homes and nothing for renters.

“Ballarat and Geelong report big jumps in people accessing food crisis services, and the rate of people experiencing homelessness across the west is also rising.

“One quarter of Victorians live outside of Melbourne, but the budget does not reflect our contribution and does not meet our basic needs.”

Committee for Geelong chief executive Michael Johnston said while Premier Allen’s budget sought to “alleviate the financial pressure on Victorian households” and did provide “some opportunities for Geelong”, it was “disappointing to see such little new investment in our city and region”.

“With Geelong one of the fastest growing cities in Australia, seeing strong population and employment growth, our continued prosperity requires investment in key transport infrastructure and an increase in housing supply,” Mr Johnston said.

“Within this budget, a $62.7m allocation for essential remedial works on the Geelong rail tunnel is the extent of investment. This helps maintain what we have, rather than grow.”

Geelong mayor Trent Sullivan echoed Mr Johnston’s comments, welcoming “measures in this state budget aimed at alleviating cost of living pressures” but saying the lack of investment in the region was “concerning”.

“For Geelong to retain its livability in the future we need the state government to start delivering major infrastructure upgrades in the short term, particularly relating to transport,” he said.

“We need immediate investment to increase the frequency of services in our existing rail and bus networks. The $63 million allocation for a South Geelong rail tunnel is very welcomed but falls short of what our region requires.

“We are keenly awaiting greater detail on the state’s plans for Commonwealth Games legacy infrastructure, which was missing from this budget.”