CBD project sweating on funding answer

By Thomas Moir

Three of the four stages of the forthcoming Maude St Plaza and Bus Interchange project are reliant on a pending Federal Government funding application that Greater Shepparton City Council has been waiting more than six months to hear the outcome of.

But Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum assured news on the council’s application was just around the corner.

Council said it sought a contribution from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund in December last year.

The project has been unsuccessful in securing elusive funding for the project on several occasions, including last year in the first round of the Building Better Regions Fund.

But Mr Drum said the successful applicants to round two of the program would likely be revealed this month.

The council had applied for about $1.6million to co-fund the project, set to ensure a revamped bus interchange south of Vaughan St, a public plaza area and a newly landscaped Maude St south of High St.

On a webpage devoted to this project, stages one, three and four are budgeted with the pending funds factored in.

These three stages, which include the plaza, public facilities, streetscape improvements and the creation of a signalised intersection, will be co-funded by the council and ‘‘expected funds from the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions’’.

The council’s finance department last week said the total project cost was in the order of $5million.

The council chipped in $3million to the project in its recently endorsed 2018-19 budget.

Remaining funds will be provided through contributions from VicRoads, Public Transport Victoria and the Department of Justice.

Under the plan, the south end of Maude St is set for a facelift in the coming years, as the plaza space is created, a bus interchange goes south and the Vaughan St and Maude St intersection roundabout disappears.

A council spokesperson last week said if the funding was not forthcoming it would be problematic given the project relied on Federal Government funding.

‘‘If we don’t get that, it will probably delay some of the stages, but that’s a decision yet to be made,’’ the spokesperson said.

The council has been unsuccessful in applying for government funding to help move the project forward on multiple occasions.

It had been most recently unsuccessful in securing $3million for the project in August, forcing a reassessment of the project at the time, described at the time as being disappointing.

Officers at the time suggested the council was committed to the project, albeit funding it out of its own pocket.

Federal Government documentation on the second round of the Building Better Regions Fund from November last year said the announcement of successful projects was expected in the middle of this year.

The plan marks the next stage for the council’s central business district revitalisation project, which also included the Shepparton courthouse, Vaughan St and eventually the Shepparton railway precinct.

Mr Drum said he had pushed for the project’s inclusion, given the Shepparton CBD was a vital part of the region, but conceded the funding stream was ‘‘heavily subscribed’’, a factor that was always worrying in securing funding.

‘‘Certainly the minister is under no illusions as to the importance of this project,’’ Mr Drum said.

‘‘Everybody wants the bus system to work as good as it possibly can.’’