The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said the end of the “bridge blockade insanity” has finally reunited twin towns the length of the Murray River.
Mr Walsh said that means the devastated tourism industry can now launch an urgent Murray River renaissance to try and repair the extensive damage caused by the Andrews Labor government’s kneejerk border closure on New Year’s Eve.
He said you could not have orchestrated a better campaign to more totally damage the regional river economy than to cause a blind panic on New Year’s Eve and then stretch it out to the end of the tourism industry’s peak summer period.
“Daniel Andrews did not even have the guts to front up to those TV cameras he loves so much and let regional Victoria know it was back in business and that its paralysing bridge blockades had been shut down,” Mr Walsh said.
“No, we had to pick all that up second hand,” he said.
“In the end I went out to one of the roadblocks myself and asked the officers on duty did they know if anything was happening and they were able to tell me what time the roadblocks would end; and the dismantling would begin.
“It was a slap in the face for the Victorians paying the biggest price for the Daniel Andrews style of mismanagement.”
Mr Walsh said communities along the river were now working around the clock to introduce emergency recovery plans to repair the damage.
“So long as Melbourne was up and running; Daniel Andrews seemed content to leave river communities cut in half,” Mr Walsh said.
“Now we face the long road back; and in many cases, both sides of the river, much of what has been lost will be almost impossible to replace,” he said.
“It was good of the Premier to wait until the last days of the peak season for the regional tourism industry to finally decide enough was enough and bring the blockade farce to a closure.”
Mr Walsh said now the urgency is getting the message out to people the twin towns along the river are good to go; and to try and rebuild confidence in the region as a destination.
He said there is no question the brand has been damaged but added there was a lot of work being done urgently behind the scenes; and there was still plenty of optimism and determination to correct the damage done.
“Tourism and business groups have already put together powerful marketing campaigns and my office is working with other segments of the tourism industry to try and raise even more funds – but to give the Murray River renaissance the biggest bang for its bucks really needs the Victorian government that caused all the trouble in the first place to now put its hand in its seemingly bottomless hip pocket and invest in the industry’s future.”