Australia is witnessing a record regional jobs boom. Here’s where to find them in every state


While our cities remain in recession, a record 54,000 new job vacancy advertisements in regional Australia has the bush eyeing off a long-awaited economic and population turnaround.

Using an analysis of job vacancy data comparing October last year to October this year, Regional Australia Institute chief executive Liz Ritchie has found “silver linings” in the COVID-19 crisis for regional Australia.

“There’s 54,000 jobs available in the October figures that we’ve just released. This is a 13 per cent increase on 2019 figures at the same time,” Ms Ritchie told 7.30.

“These are indeed record numbers that we’re seeing right now.

“We know that it’s engineers. We know it’s accountants. We know it’s lawyers. We know it’s doctors. These are the opportunities there that are currently available.

“They’re well paid employment opportunities that enable city dwellers to rethink their lifestyle.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said regional towns were “big enough to get a good cup of coffee … small enough to still care”.

“COVID-19 has taught us that we can, in fact, live in regional areas to get the side benefits of city living,” he said.

‘We thought we were crazy’

Mudgee Deputy Mayor and bookshop owner Sam Paine says the town has bounced back.(ABC News: Andy Park)

Mudgee, three and half hours north-west of Sydney, is one town capitalising on the boom. Its median house price jumped 8 per cent this year.

Mudgee Deputy Mayor Sam Paine, 36, has done there what would be considered unthinkable in the city right now — he opened a new book shop, something the town had been missing for some years.

“We thought we were crazy,” Mr Paine told 7.30.

“Mudgee did shut down for a while and things were quiet. Now things have just bounced back.

“Every business is full and doing the best business they’ve ever done. It’s really booming. It’s crazy that it’s in the middle of a pandemic.”

‘You’re booked up for months’

A man with a beard.
Builder Ben Kubowicz says construction in Mudgee is booming.(ABC News: Andy Park)

Part of Mudgee’s success is undoubtedly due to an increase in tourists frustrated at a lack of international options.

It has sparked an Airbnb boom for property owners and for renovation builders such as Ben Kubowicz.

“We’ve seen an increase of about 40 per cent in just overall leads and inquiries, and a number of that is actually tree changes and people looking to convert into short-stay accommodation locations,” Mr Kubowicz said.

“The construction sector in Mudgee is really booming. It really is new-home construction that is out of control.

“If you’re a new-home project builder, you’re booked up for months in advance. If you’re a specialist renovator, then yeah, you’ve got waiting times well into next year to even think about doing a project.”

Unleashing the potential of the regions

A man in a shirt and suit jacket stands in front of a house under construction.
Mudgee real estate agent Adam Woods says there are concerns about whether infrastructure will keep up with the growth.(ABC News: Andy Park)

Local real estate agent Adam Woods says it is not just short-stay accommodation in limited supply.

He said first home buyer incentives were spurring on buyers in a new master-planned estate called Carleon on the edge of town.

“We’ve got 2,000 lots in total out here. And in the last eight weeks, we’ve actually seen 48 lots secured by new homeowners moving up this way,” Mr Woods said.

“We’re probably running in the high 90 per cent occupancy right across the board in Mudgee right now, which is just incredible when usually you’re running somewhere in that 50 to 60 per cent.”

Although, there is now concern over how the town of 12,000 people will keep up with the growth.

“There is that concern that infrastructure may not keep up,” Mr Woods said.

“An example of that is one of the schools for the kindergarten next year had 120 applicants for 90 slots.”

Department of Regional NSW secretary Gary Barnes said $1.7 billion had been spent over the past four years to “unleash the potential of the regions”.

“The very clever and innovative businesses in regional New South Wales have adopted the mantra of ‘don’t waste a good crisis and pandemic’. And they are undertaking a lot of clever and innovative onshoring,” Mr Barnes said.

“We’ve had companies that previously might have taken plastic recycling offshore. Now we’re setting up in a very big and meaningful way to do that sort of work in our regions.”

A looming undersupply of labour

A man picks fruit from a tree.
Peter Hall is concerned about getting enough workers to his orchard.(ABC News: Warwick Long)

Not all regional employers are confident they can get the labour they need at the right time. They include Shepparton orchardist Peter Hall, who has relied on a mix of backpackers, Pacific Islander workers and locals.

“You’ve probably got a two or three-day window to harvest varieties of stone fruit,” he said.

“If you don’t have pickers for that, then the fruit will go soft. So there’s a there’s a real time imperative when it comes to the harvest of stone fruit.”

He said it was not clear yet if federal and state measures, such as arrangements with Pacific Islander workers, were working to meet his looming harvest labour shortfall.

“This year, it’s looking very concerning,” Mr Hall said.

“There needs to be a bit of recognition [of the fact] that we can get to the point where we find we’re short of workers … there won’t be any people in the country.

“It’ll be months before we can organise ourselves to get workers from another source.”

Where are the jobs?

A map of Australia showing stats on regional job figures.
New figures from the Regional Australia Institute reveal the regional areas where jobs are booming.

New South Wales

According to year-on-year job ad analysis by the Regional Australia Institute, Dubbo and Western NSW are NSW’s regional job hotspot, with ads there up 92.6 per cent, as compared to Sydney’s job market which has shrunk by 24.7 per cent.

The Southern highlands and the Snowys have 55.9 per cent, and Tamworth and Northern NSW has 45.2 per cent more jobs than this time last year.

Queensland

In Queensland, Toowoomba/South West Queensland have 35.7 per cent more job ads, while Brisbane is down almost 8.7 per cent.

The Sunshine Coast has 24.5 per cent more ads and the Gold Coast 18.8 per cent more.

Northern Territory

In country NT, there are 18.2 per cent more job vacancies, while in Darwin only 7.6 per cent.

Western Australia

South West WA has 51.6 per cent more job ads than this time last year. In Perth, the figure is just 14.5 per cent.

Ads in the Goldfields and Southern WA are up 24.5 per cent and the Pilbara and Kimberley up 17.6 per cent.

South Australia

Ads in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, Murray and Mallee are up 35.9 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 11.4 per cent.

Ads in Port Augusta and the Eyre Peninsula are up 23.7 per cent and the Yorke Peninsula and Clare Valley 17.9 per cent.

Tasmania

North West Tasmania’s job ads are up 26.3 per cent versus a 4.9 per cent drop in Hobart.

Victoria

In Victoria, Bendigo and the High Country are up 5.1 per cent versus Melbourne’s job vacancies shrinking by 38.3 per cent due to the strict lockdown — in stark contrast to the rest of Australia.

Could this be the great decentraliser?

The Federal Government’s former policies to push skilled migrants and workers from the overpopulated CBDs to the regions is now happening almost as a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wouldn’t call it a side effect,” Mr McCormack told 7.30.

“I know that when we got back into Government in 2013, we certainly encouraged decentralisation indeed.

“1,700 public service and other jobs have come via decentralisation policies.”



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What we expect from regional and city governments is increasingly out of step with their powers


This column is an opinion by Tomas Hachard, manager of programs and research at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Canadian city governments have been on the front lines delivering essential services while struggling with limited fiscal resources. The pressures of the pandemic have made it clear that there are cracks in Canada’s federal structure, particularly in relation to cities.

Even though city governments are growing in importance and responsibility, they remain “little siblings” in Canadian federalism, often ignored by Ottawa or overruled by the provinces.

This imbalance has repercussions for all Canadians. Canada is one of the most decentralized countries on the planet, and little can be accomplished without ensuring all governments are equipped to make the decisions and sustain the investments Canada requires for its future success.

As I note in research for the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, cities face four particular challenges because of the imbalance in intergovernmental relations.

The first is paternalism. Cities have a semblance of authority in several policy areas, but often little actual power to make changes.

For example, depending on where you live in Canada, changes to speed limits may require provincial approval, local public health decision-making is second-guessed, and municipal planning decisions can be appealed to provincially regulated oversight bodies, as can policing budget decisions.

The second challenge is constrained finances. Cities have inadequate sources of revenue and insufficient fiscal flexibility to meet their responsibilities.

One consequence of this are city plans or actions that, without provincial and federal funding, simply can’t proceed. The biggest effect is on infrastructure, and particularly transit, where many cities can’t afford their repair bills, let alone the cost of new construction or needed expansion.

The third challenge is poor coordination. Unclear and overlapping jurisdiction between orders of government leads to inefficient programs and disputes over responsibility.

In Ontario, this challenge has recently been epitomized by debates over what power cities have to enact public health restrictions on their own.

The pandemic has required closer co-operation between federal officials such as Health Minister Patty Hajdu, right, premiers such as Ontario’s Doug Ford, left, and municipal officials. (Chris Young, Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The final challenge is fragmentation. Many of the most visionary ideas for the future of cities are best implemented at a metropolitan scale. Housing and transit challenges, for example, cross municipal borders and affect entire metropolitan regions. Yet in most of Canada, metropolitan regions are made up of several municipalities, and inadequate governance structures exist to allow for effective coordination.

How can these challenges be addressed?

First, a clarification of the powers and responsibilities of modern cities is needed. Canada currently suffers from conflicted and contradictory answers to the questions of what municipal governments ought to be and what they ought to do.

If city governments are increasingly significant public policymakers, they need to have the resources, autonomy, and institutions appropriate to deliver on that role. A principles-based review of provincial-municipal relations to clarify who does what and how we pay for it would help ensure that city governments are able to meet the expectations we have for them.

Of course, Canadian provinces and territories are also strained by the current balance of intergovernmental relations. Any review of provincial-municipal responsibilities would need to take into account the federal-provincial/territorial context.

Second, relations between the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments n Canada need to be deepened.

Many of Canada’s greatest policy challenges require increased coordination and cooperation among all three orders of government. However, there exists no mechanism for ongoing, formal federal-provincial-municipal relations.

Cities, provinces, and the federal government need formal avenues for collaborative governance. Established committees that include mayors and city managers, and their counterparts at the provincial and federal levels, would create avenues for ongoing cooperation. It is not feasible for every Canadian municipality to be at the intergovernmental table, but that gap could be filled by metropolitan institutions that represent city-regions, or by municipal associations in each province.

There have been debates about how much power municipal, provincial and federal levels of government have when deciding on measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and enforcing them. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

At the same time, governments should pursue trilateral agreements to address policy challenges that require coordinated action and multi-level funding. Such agreements could be modelled on the urban development agreements in Vancouver and Winnipeg, which brought together government and community partners, and led to funding for economic development and neighbourhood revitalization.

Fundamentally, in a policy area like mental health — which involves every order of government, because it intersects with housing, the opioid crisis, health care, and policing — trilateral agreements could coordinate existing work being done by individual governments, and direct resources to where they are most needed.

Making all this happen is no easy feat, and it requires give-and-take from every level of government, but it’s essential if we truly want to fix the obvious cracks in Canadian federalism.

In combination, these measures would not only put cities on a firmer footing, they would also ensure more effective funding, coordination, and delivery of public services across all orders of government. Canada will be better able to “build back better” from COVID-19, address climate change, reform social policy, and improve health care if the governments best able to deliver on specific aspects of these efforts can afford to take them on.

With better coordination and cooperation between all three orders of government, Canada will be better equipped to handle the challenges ahead.




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London spared from toughest regional restrictions, but Manchester and Birmingham plunged into tier-three lockdown — RT UK News



The government has announced new regional restrictions that will come into force when England’s national lockdown ends next week. London will be in the second-highest tier, meaning no household mixing indoors.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Thursday that the national lockdown will be replaced with a return to the tiered system across England from next Wednesday.  

The restrictions announced by Hancock will see London spared from the highest tier of lockdown and instead being placed in tier two, meaning bars and restaurants can reopen but households won’t be allowed to mix indoors.

Meanwhile, other urban centres such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds will experience a continuation of the national lockdown measures having been designated very-high risk regions.

Tier three, the highest level, prevents bars and restaurants from reopening and forbids people from mixing with others outside their households in all indoor and many outdoor spaces.

The southwest, an area that was largely unhit by the worst of the pandemic, now finds a number of regions plunged into the highest tier. The city of Bristol and the rural counties of North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will also be subjected to the toughest restrictions in the run up to Christmas.

A postcode checker was briefly available on Thursday morning to allow people to see what the restrictions would be in force in their area. However, the page subsequently crashed.



Also on rt.com
Brits warned of dreaded THIRD WAVE of Covid as ex-cabinet secretary insists relaxing restrictions over Christmas is UNSCIENTIFIC


The United Kingdom is one of the worst-afflicted nations in the world with Covid-19 after 18,662 new cases were reported on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Office for National Statistics suggested that Covid infections had levelled off across England following three weeks of national lockdown.

The ONS estimates there were 633,000 people infected with Covid during the week from November 15 to 21. This was down from 664,700 the week before. 

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Ethiopia’s stature and regional stability at risk in Tigray crisis


As Ethiopia prepares to lay siege to its restive Tigray region, what was once billed as a central government policing operation is threatening to become a regional affair whose outcome will be felt across the Horn of Africa. With a new refugee crisis already brewing, the pressure is on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to swiftly wrap up the fighting to prevent regional and international actors from using the conflict to further their own agendas.

Ethiopia’s ascendance as a regional power and the very peace accord that won Mr. Abiy international acclaim are suddenly at stake. The war is already affecting Ethiopia’s role as a linchpin for security and stability across the Horn as it pulls reinforcements from peacekeeping duties in Somalia.

“Already the situation was delicate in the Horn: there are plenty of actors willing to get involved,” says Martin Plaut, Horn of Africa expert at the London-based Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

“If the government does not secure a swift victory,” that would open the door to more outside involvement, and “Ethiopian nationalism will flare up and send the whole region into unknown territory,” he says. “People are already bewildered at the pace of events.”

AMMAN, Jordan

Ethiopia has long prided itself on its independence – as the one African nation to repel Western colonizers and foreign interference as others became battlegrounds for competing powers.

But as Ethiopia prepares to lay siege to its restive Tigray region, what was once billed as a policing operation by a newly assertive central government is threatening to become a regional affair whose outcome will be felt across the Horn of Africa and beyond.

And, with a new refugee crisis already brewing, the pressure is on reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to swiftly wrap up the fighting to prevent already-mobilizing regional and international actors from using the conflict to further their own agendas.

Ethiopia’s ascendance as a regional power and the very peace accord that won Mr. Abiy international acclaim are suddenly at stake. The war is already affecting Ethiopia’s role as a linchpin for security and stability across the Horn as it pulls reinforcements from peacekeeping duties in Somalia.

“The duration of this conflict will have profound implications for Ethiopia and the entire region,” says a veteran Ethiopian analyst monitoring the conflict.

“If the conflict is decisively won in a week and the Tigrayan leadership surrenders, Mr. Abiy is strengthened at home and on the regional stage. But if this war drags on into an insurgency, it will be very difficult for Abiy Ahmed to contain the spill-over, or who may intervene.”

Martin Plaut, Horn of Africa expert at the London-based Institute of Commonwealth Studies, concurs. “Already the situation was delicate in the Horn: There are plenty of actors willing to get involved,” he says.

“If the government does not secure a swift victory,” that would open the door to more outside involvement, and “Ethiopian nationalism will flare up and send the whole region into unknown territory.”

“People are already bewildered at the pace of events,” he says.

Wednesday evening, after a 72-hour grace period for surrender expired, Ethiopian federal troops prepared to launch what they called a “no mercy” siege of Mekele, capital of the northern region of Tigray, where the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has defied the central government’s authority.

Regional involvement

Across the Horn of Africa, the balance of power has shifted in recent years due to revolutions and outside competition for its resources and strategic waterways.

Three weeks into the conflict in Tigray, and regional states are threatening to pierce Ethiopia’s once-impenetrable status.

People participate in a two minute ceremony to honor the members of Ethiopian National Defense Forces fighting against the Tigray Special Forces, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nov. 17, 2020.

Neighboring Eritrea has already provided Ethiopia with logistics and, allegedly, air power, establishing a northern flank as Ethiopian federal troops sweep from the south.

The Tigrayan leadership alleges direct involvement by the Eritrean air force and troops – claims that are difficult to substantiate amid a communications and internet blackout in the region.

As retribution, the TPLF launched missiles into the Eritrean capital Asmara last week.

Although officially denied by both sides, the closely coordinated operation highlights the growing alliance between Mr. Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, who signed a finalized peace deal in 2018 ending two decades of cold war. Mr. Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a result.

Yet observers say there are deeper motivations for Eritrea’s support.

Eritrea has a long-standing feud with the TPLF, a onetime ally with whom it later fought the bitter and devastating border wars of 1998-2000.

The TPLF frustrated Mr. Isaias’s regional ambitions to become kingmaker for the Horn of Africa when the Tigrayan group led Ethiopia’s government from 1993 to 2018.

Since the border wars, Mr. Isaias has slowly rebuilt his influence and networks in Djibouti, Somalia, and further afield.

By settling an old score with the TPLF and making the Ethiopian government reliant on Eritrea’s service, Mr. Isaias sees an opportunity to claim what he sees as his rightful mantle as regional leader.

“They always saw Ethiopia as an obstacle to their role as head of the Horn of Africa,” says a second Ethiopian analyst. “Removing the TPLF is removing an obstacle to realizing that ambition.”

Sudan and Somalia

Fighting has set off alarms in neighboring Sudan to the northwest, itself in the midst of a fragile and contentious post-revolution political transition.

Fighting has driven more than 40,000 Ethiopian refugees into Sudan, far more than the United Nations’ initial estimates, with an expected 200,000 to be driven into Sudanese territory within months, the largest refugee wave to hit the country in decades.

Due to intense fighting in the border regions, the U.N. said Tuesday it is transporting refugees some 45 miles deeper into Sudanese territory.

Sudan remains concerned Tigrayan fighters may retreat to its porous border region to regroup, resupply, and stage an insurgency campaign against the Ethiopian government.

Such a development could lead to a flow of illicit arms and militant activity into Sudan at a time its own security establishment is under strain and distrust is rife among Sudan’s military and civilian factions.

Due to a need for increased manpower, Ethiopia last week withdrew 3,000 troops from its 10,000-strong peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The Ethiopian contingent is the largest in the troubled state and has been critical in supporting the Somali government and bolstering the campaign against the Islamist militant group Al-Shabab.

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

A Sudanese military officer keeps guard as Ethiopians who fled war in the Tigray region receive supplies from the World Food Programme at the Fashaga camp on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Al-Qadarif state, Sudan on Nov. 20, 2020.

With the African Union coalition already fragile, and partners unwilling to carry the brunt of the burdens carried by Addis Ababa, there are concerns the African peacekeeping initiative could collapse should further Ethiopian troops be withdrawn.

“The immediate regional effect of Ethiopia withdrawing troops out of Somalia is it puts the campaign against al-Shabab at risk,” Mr. Plaut warns.

Egypt

Closely taking stock is Egypt, which has been blindsided by Ethiopia’s meteoric reemergence as a regional power and direct rival to Cairo’s hegemony.

Egypt is primarily concerned with Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a project to dam the Blue Nile River to generate electricity to fuel Ethiopia’s rapid modernization.

Egypt is concerned that the dam will affect its water supplies and agricultural lands in the Nile Valley downstream, but has until recently found itself in a weak bargaining position as talks over the dam with Ethiopia and Sudan have stalled.

With the Ethiopian conflict, Cairo has become emboldened – some insiders say “euphoric” – and is looking to seize the opportunity to bolster its position.

The Egyptian and Eritrean foreign ministers met in Cairo last week to discuss “the current situation in the Horn of Africa,” and this week Egypt and Sudan held joint maneuvers on Sudanese soil, the first such military cooperation in decades.

UAE

Hovering above the fray with a watchful eye is the United Arab Emirates, which has extensive economic and military interests across the Horn.

In recent years the wealthy Gulf Arab state has invested political capital and billions of dollars to establish bases, ports, and patrons along the Red Sea coast in Eritrea, Djibouti, and Sudan, and does not wish to see its interests and control of shipping lanes jeopardized. 

Prior to the conflict, Abu Dhabi was eager to bring Ethiopia into its sphere of influence and cement its hold on East Africa, a push fueled by the recent expansion of its rivals Turkey and Qatar into Sudan and Somalia.

Also alarming is the war’s proximity to Eritrea, a close ally and where the UAE has a military base in Assab, from which the Emiratis have projected their military power into Yemen and North Africa, particularly Libya.

Yet after weeks signaling it was supportive of Mr. Abiy’s offensive, this week the UAE called for a cessation of hostilities and a return to dialogue, offering to mediate between the TPLF and Addis Ababa.

The UAE also became the first nation to provide aid to refugees fleeing the conflict, donating $4.5 million for U.N. food relief for Ethiopians on the Sudanese border.

“The Emiratis want to play it both ways,” says an Ethiopian analyst knowledgeable of UAE involvement in the country. “On the one hand there are reports of the use of drones from their base, but they also want to emerge as mediators. Whether the conflict ends decisively in Mekele or stretches on, this will enhance their role in the Horn of Africa.”

Mr. Abiy has thus far rebuffed attempts of mediation by the UAE, Sudan, South Africa, and the African Union, expressing confidence that the siege of Mekele will be swift, the TPLF leadership will capitulate, and order will be restored.

Amid reports that TPLF forces are retreating to mountainous hinterlands, regional actors are preparing in case he is wrong.



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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victoria-NSW border reopens; Mandatory mask-wearing outdoors in Victoria scrapped; Calls grow for dedicated regional quarantine hotels



The first flight from Melbourne has landed in Sydney since NSW lifted border restrictions with Victoria overnight. Meanwhile Victorians can breathe easier outdoors after mandatory mask-wearing was dropped in outdoor settings. Follow our live coverage here.



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Victorian Government’s $465 million tourism package includes $200 vouchers for tourists to regional Victoria


The Victorian Government will hand out $200 vouchers for visitors to regional Victoria in a bid to boost tourism in bushfire and COVID-affected towns.

Premier Daniel Andrews has promised $465 million in this year’s budget, to encourage more visitors to regional Victoria as part of the Victorian Tourism Recovery Package.

Victorians who have booked and spent at least $400 dollars on accommodation or tickets to attractions and tours can apply for a $200 voucher for spending money.

120,000 vouchers will be made available from December.

“There’ll be quite a simple process to make sure that you can validate that you had an experience and then you will receive the $200 from us,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the $465 million package was the ‘biggest regional tourism announcement in the history of our state’.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Mikaela Ortolan)

Voucher system still being worked out

Regional Victorians will also be eligible for vouchers for region to region travel but Tourism Minister Martin Pakula said the details of the voucher system were still being worked out.

“Whether it is upfront or by reimbursement is part of the design,” Mr Pakula said.

“I make the point that similar schemes are already in place in South Australia and Tasmania

Another $149 million has been allocated in the budget to building new tourism infrastructure in regional towns.

The bulk of the funding will go towards upgrades along the Great Ocean Road.

A new coastal walking trail with up to five new suspension bridges will be built along the Great Ocean Road, providing spectacular views from Fairhaven Skenes Creek.

Another $2 million is being set aside to build more campsites will also be built along the Surf Coast.

Tourism boost for bushfire towns

New board walk at Cape Conran
Salmon Beach at Cape Conran with a new boardwalk replaced since the summer’s fires.(Supplied: Lisa Pompei)

In East Gippsland, $18.5 million will be spent on improving tourist infrastructure as part of a Gippsland Tourism Recovery Package.

Ten eco-pods will be built at Cape Conran Coastal Park costing $3.5 million to entice visitors to stop along the Melbourne to Sydney coastal route.

Cabins, camp grounds and boardwalks at the park were destroyed in the summer bushfires.

The proposed Metung Hot Springs and Nunduk Spa and Eco-Resort has been promised $2.5 million but it is not known if that will be enough to kick-start the project.

Australia’s largest mainland lighthouse at Point Hicks in a far south-eastern corner of the state will undergo a $3.85 million upgrade.

Visitor facilities at Mallacoota inlet will also be upgraded to allow for the development of a new Coastal Wilderness walk through the rugged Croajingolong National Park.

On Raymond Island, accessible only by ferry from Paynesville in East Gippsland, $350,000 will be spent on a koala trail.

Keeping predators off the Prom

One of the jewels of Victoria’s nature-based tourism sites, Wilsons Promontory will undergo a $23 million upgrade.

A $6 million predator-proof fence will be built at the Prom, stretching 10 kilometres from coast to coast to block access by foxes, cats, deer and rabbits.

Wilsons Promontory
A new visitor centre will be built at the northern entrance to Wilsons Promontory as part of a $23 million upgrade at the national park.(ABC News: Elise Kinsella)

“These improvements at some of our most iconic tourist destinations will bring more visitors to Gippsland and that means a stronger economy and more jobs,” Tourism Minister Martin Pakula said.

Funding has also been allocated to the Mallee Silo Art Trail, the Ballarat Centre for Photography, the Murray River Adventure Trail, and the Brambuk Cultural Centre at Halls Gap.

In the state’s north east, $4.3 million will be spent on growing the Prosecco Road winery district by establishing accommodation at Dal Zotto Wines.

Another $15 million will go towards upgrades to the hiking trail between Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.

The Victorian Government has also allocated $3.5 million to upgrade the 104-year-old Snowy River Rail bridge at Orbost.

The upgrade will make the bridge suitable for pedestrians and cyclists, linking it to the popular East Gippsland Rail Trail.



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COVID-free regional Victorians want answers on mandatory masks as temperatures soar


With temperatures set to soar past 40 degrees in parts of the state today, the Victorian Government is under increasing pressure to lift mandatory mask rules, especially in regional towns free of COVID-19 for months.

As the state celebrates more than a fortnight without a new case of coronavirus, regional Victorians who work in manual jobs outdoors say masks are becoming a health and safety risk with the weather warming up.

The mercury is forecast to hit 42 in Mildura today and settle in the 30s across much of the state and many regional Victorians, including the State Opposition, are urging the Government to make masks optional.

East Gippsland traffic controller, Deana Mills, 19 spends long days standing on country roads and using a UHF radio to manage traffic flow on roadwork sites.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Premier Daniel Andrews said wearing face masks would help keep case numbers low.

She wears a mask for 12 hours a day and said she struggles to breathe in hot weather.

“With a job like mine, it makes it difficult to communicate with all of our workers on the road, it makes it difficult to breath because it gets really hot, really sweaty,” she said.

‘Pointless’ on deserted beach

Gippsland’s Ninety Mile Beach is famous for long, empty stretches and registered nurse Jennifer Luke, 56, who wears a mask all day at work and when she goes supermarket shopping, says they are pointless when she walks her dogs on the deserted sands.

She opts instead to keep hers in her back pocket.

Woman at beach walking two dogs
Nurse Jennifer Luke, 56, says she unmasks when she’s alone with her dogs on Gippsland’s Ninety Mile Beach.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

“If you are in a place like this where social distancing is easy then there’s no need to wear it,” she said.

“I understand why we’re using them and I think they’ve done a great job of reducing the virus in Victoria without a doubt, but I think in a wide open space where no-one’s around there’s no point wearing it.”

‘Should be common sense’

Yesterday, Victoria celebrated a milestone 15 days in a row of “double doughnuts” — zero new cases overnight and zero deaths.

Nationals MP for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien said Victorians had done enough and it was time to make masks optional.

“We’re meant to be moving to the last step under the original roadmap but apparently that’s been thrown out the window,” he said.

Danny O'Brien MP
Nationals MP Danny O’Brien says Victorians understand when they should minimise risk and when they can go mask-free.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

“I think people understand the need to minimise the risks and we can do that by continuing to wear masks in supermarkets, in Bunnings, in enclosed indoor spaces with lots of people.

“But it doesn’t make any sense to be making people wear a mask when they are walking around the street on their own or working outside on their own.

But Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Allen Cheng said maintaining mandatory mask rules could enable authorities to reopen more businesses sooner.

Professor Cheng said Victorian health authorities were monitoring what was happening in New South Wales and the proposed travel bubble with New Zealand before making any changes to mask rules.

“What we would probably say is that you would need to wear your mask indoors but not outdoors but that would depend on the situation at the time,” he said.

“I would expect (that) within the next month but the exact timing again, depends on the situation,” Professor Cheng said.

‘Time we separate’

After sewing more than 2,000 masks since July, Sale-based embroiderer Jenny Bennett, 64, can make one from scratch in 10 minutes.

She has purchased a stockpile of Christmas-themed fabric to meet her next series of orders but is hoping she can part ways with her own mask.

“We’ve had a close relationship, my mask and I, but now I think it’s time we separate,” she said.

A woman sits at a sewing machine
Jenny Bennett says she has sewn more than 2,000 masks during the pandemic and is ready to part ways with her own.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

“I am happy to wear them inside and at supermarkets and things like that but I think when you are walking on your own, we can be separate.”

It is not yet known if mask rules will be eased when Premier Daniel Andrews introduces the next stage of Victoria’s roadmap to reopening on November 22.

The Police Association of Victoria said it had not received any significant backlash from regional Victorian police about having to issue $200 mask infringements.



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