April 14, 2022

Haines announces plan to boost tourism and local economies

Projects such as the upgrade of the historic Benalla Art Gallery and the Skyline Road touring project at Eildon would be in line for funding from a Regional Tourism Fund announced today by Helen Haines MP, Independent Federal Member for Indi.

Helen Haines said she would fight to establish the fund that would grow local jobs and get the tourism economy back on track, by investing $250 million each year in infrastructure projects that increase visitation rates and grow long-term local jobs in the tourism, accommodation, and hospitality sectors.

Haines said the fund would invest in major regional tourism projects that strengthen the local economy, capture the domestic tourism spike, and build on the increasingly positive outlook from local operators and investors alike.

“The North East tourism sector accounts for over 20% of gross regional product and 25% of employment. Thousands of local jobs and businesses rely on a strong local tourism economy.

“We have a beautiful region and friendly communities that the world wants to visit. Our tourism industry is rebounding and our businesses are feeling ambitious. We need to truly back them in.

“Each time I meet with our tourism, hospitality and accommodation businesses, we talk about their hopes for the future. The Regional Tourism Fund will back in our small businesses by investing in the future of our regions.

Helen Haines said that investing in regional tourism infrastructure would support hundreds of jobs and strengthen the local economy.

“For instance, the Prosecco Road Development is projected to create 1,117 jobs over a 10 year period. There are dozens of projects like this in the pipeline across Indi.

“This investment also needs to include supporting infrastructure like upgrades to the Wangaratta-Whitfield Road.

“Regional infrastructure projects engage local procurement and local jobs, and have flow-on benefits to the construction, retail and other sectors.”

Helen Haines launched the policy at the Benalla Art Gallery, which is seeking $7 million to expand its gallery space and improve its connections with Lake Benalla, the township and the heritage Botanical Gardens.

“The Benalla Art Gallery project is a fantastic one, which I was proud to put to government in my most recent Indi budget submission.”

Helen Haines said that the last few years had been tough for the tourism, hospitality and accommodation businesses, and while recovery was underway, infrastructure investment was needed to make up for the widespread loss in revenue.

“Our tourism businesses are emerging from a long period of disruption and uncertainty following the Black Summer Bushfires and the pandemic.

“In the first half of 2020, North East Victoria lost 1.6 million local tourism visitors. That’s 95% of business as usual. During this time, visitor expenditure fell by up to $639 million in 2020 and up to 6,390 jobs were disrupted or lost.

“I’ve visited hotels who were empty for months, and tourism operators on the ski fields and in the valleys who didn’t have clientele for most of 2020 and 2021.”

Helen Haines has delivered millions of dollars in catalysing regional tourism investment as the Member for Indi, but she said there was still much more to be done.

“I’ve successfully lobbied for over $10 million in tourism projects across Indi, including $5.1 million for the Rutherglen Wine Walk Cycle Trail, $2 million for the Dinner Plain Recreation Reserve, and $150,000 for an upgrade of the much-loved Rotary Water Slide on the Ovens River in Bright.

“Yet dozens of projects in Indi are going wanting from a failure by the Morrison Government to realise the economic potential of tourism infrastructure and invest to unlock hundreds of jobs for Indi residents.

“I will never stop advocating for the small businesses of Indi and the thousands of employees in the tourism sector. I believe in the potential of our region and it is a shame that the Morrison Government is missing in action in regional Australia yet again.”

Earlier this week Haines announced policies to improve housing supply and affordability in Indi, as part of a broader focus on economic recovery.

“Many of the dozens of local tourism, hospitality and accommodation businesses I’ve spoken to tell me housing is a core issue when it comes to filling job vacancies in the region.

“In addition to funding for tourism projects, I want to see initiatives like mine that make it easy for people to find the housing they need to take up jobs in our tourism industry.”

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