WITH just 130 days until Victorians go to the polls the State Coalition Government is determined to demonstrate that it is 'putting locals first'.
As part of the campaign Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan hosted the region's first Putting Locals First Forum in Stawell last Thursday.
The event was a chance for local businesses, community groups and even individuals to raise issues of concern and put forward their funding priorities for the region.
"It is an opportunity for people to be able to come along and talk to us about their aspirations for not only Stawell but the region more generally," Mr Ryan said.
"I do them regularly around the state and they do afford the opportunity for people to be able to come and talk to us directly about what they want to see happen in their particular area and to get the feedback from us as to our capacity to be able to assist them."
Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said between 20 and 25 people from towns including Great Western, Halls Gap, Stawell and St Arnaud attended the forum.
Cr Erwin said members of the community raised questions about infrastructure including funding for the St Arnaud precinct, Western Highway duplication and future bypass of Great Western as well as measures to increase tourism in Halls Gap and the Grampians, including the development of the Grampians Peak Trail.
"I think it was very well received, there was a good diversity of issues and it was quite pleasing to see the level of community involvement," he said.
"There are a number of things it would be good to put money towards and I think it was made pretty clear through this forum where we stand."
Cr Erwin said questions about the standard of education and what the impact will be from the implementation of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) on employment across the region were also raised.
"I think some times the federal and state governments don't understand the potential economic impacts of initiatives such as these on smaller communities," he said.
Reflecting on the past four years, Cr Erwin said he was generally happy with the level of interest and investment in the municipality by the state government.
"I'm generally happy, I mean we could always do with more money and we really do need some extra funding to get some of these projects, like the Western Highway and Grampians Peak Trail across the line," he said.
The people's forum coincided with Mr Ryan's attendance at the official unveiling of the $2.1 million expansion of Frewstal's abattoir in Stawell.
Cr Erwin said that provides the region with a success story moving forward.
"That is a huge industry which has gone from strength to strength and with continued supply could employ even more people in the future," he said.
Mr Ryan also met with businesses in Main Street before heading to Ararat to host that region's first Putting Locals First Forum.