Four senior state cabinet ministers faced a barrage of questions last night at a community forum in Warrnambool which attracted about 150 people.
“We are keen to listen to your views to make this region a better place,” local MP and multi-portfolio minister
Denis Napthine said after a vigourous exhange of questions and answers at the forum.
Last night’s event opened a two-day visit by members of the state cabinet.
Today’s program will kick off at 7.30am and continue into the evening across the district.
Warrnambool Base Hospital’s redevelopment will be officially opened at 9am by Premier Ted Baillieu.
Last night’s panel of Dr Napthine, Nicholas Kotsiras, Louise Asher, Jeanette Powell and David Hodgett tackled issued ranging from mental health funding to train services, with several touching on the prickly issue of wind farm permits and road damage.
Yambuk’s Kieron Moore kicked off the wind farm issue with concerns that the renewable energy industry potential was being strangled by government.
Mr Moore hinted at Moyne Shire Council’s recent decision to refuse an extension of planning permits for proposed wind farm projects at Hawkesdale and Yambuk.
“We are strangling the heck out of the industry,” Mr Moore said.
“Local councils shouldn’t make the decisions because they have too many agendas.”
Dr Napthine said Moyne’s decision came after the proponent company failed to act on its earlier permit.
“I would hope commonsense prevails so the planning permit can be reissued,” he said.
“But it’s not for me to interfere in the process.”
Dr Napthine slammed the previous state government for failing to enforce better traffic management by construction vehicles when approving the $1 billion Macarthur wind farm.
“The roads up there are a disgrace,” he told the forum.
“Damage to the local roads is appalling.”
Hawkesdale district mother Maria Linke told of her fears for the safety of her three children and other young families on the narrow Greens Lane used by wind farm trucks.
“I invite the ministers to come and look at the wind farm and the state of the roads,” she said.
Dr Napthine said he would take up the issue personally with the construction company.
South West Sustainability Partnership executive officer Barrie Baker also tackled the wind farm issue.
Mr Baker’s focus was on the Baillieu government’s perceived lack of support for renewable energy particularly wind farms and solar panel feed-in tariffs.
Mr Baker also sought an explanation from the panel for the state claim that 240 jobs would be at risk from the Gillard government’s new carbon tax.
He said the state was also ignoring that jobs were in jeopardy in the wind and solar industries.
Two district Coastcare Landcare leaders, Kristie King and Lou Hollis sought a commitment that funding would not be cut for district facilitators.
Warrnambool’s Gordon Curran pressed for continued state funding for occasional childcare centres to help rural families.
Drug and alcohol specialist physician Dr Rodger Brough of Warrnambool called for more support for services in rural areas to assist people battling addictions.
“The south-west is a great place to live, but one of the problems we have is a significant alcohol problem we certainly need to address,” Dr Napthine replied.
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