The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains says the Andrews Labor Government has once again kicked regional events in Victoria to the curb.
Mr Walsh said organisers of regional events have been waiting since last year’s November budget to apply to the $8 million allocated for the 2020-21 Regional Events Fund to help them recover from the impact of COVID-19.
He said the fund, to be spent by 30 June 2021 – just three weeks away – hasn’t even opened.
“While it will be embarrassing for the Andrews Labor Government to open last year’s round in the next financial year, no-one in regional Victoria is laughing, they are just so fed up with being the (very) poor cousins,” Mr Walsh said.
“The $8 million fund intended to support a strong pipeline of regional events through the 2020-21 financial year and encourage tourism from Melbourne and interstate has remained tightly shut,” he said.
“This is despite the events sector continually calling for support from the State Government to help keep them afloat during the pandemic and to claw their way back as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
“There have been too many harrowing stories about the difficulties within the sector and the lack of support from this government. This is why the Liberal Nationals first initiated the Inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and events sectors in April.
“In 2021-22 the dedicated regional fund will be slashed to half of this year’s allocation, yet another blow to the organisers of regional events.”
Mr Walsh said regional events rely heavily on visitation from Melbourne; which benefits local accommodation, hospitality and retail businesses with economic profit and employment.
He said with metropolitan Melbourne’s hard Stage 4 lockdown in place, regional events have had to cancel plans as tourism numbers plummet.
“The government must step up and support our regional events and the events industry – show them there is a plan to help them,” Mr Walsh added.
“It is incredibly disheartening for the regional events sector to know there was support available, but the Andrews Labor Government failed to provide it and intends to cut it next month,” he said.
“Regional events are now being cancelled due to Melbourne’s lockdown and drop in tourism numbers. The Andrews Labor Government continually takes too long to action support, leaving many regional events unable to plan or manage future events.
“Regional events play a critically important role in the community and bringing everyone together. There has never been a more important time for communities to unite.
“This Labor Government has no plan for regional events and no plan for Victoria’s economic recovery.”