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Thursday, July 17, 2014
Mansfield tomato grower Murphy Fresh has been given a significant funding boost as part of the Victorian Government’s Grow Your Business funding for small businesses.
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes was joined by the Member for Seymour and candidate for the Electorate of Eildon, Cindy McLeish in announcing that the company had been awarded an $11,475 grant, which is designed to increase its productivity.
“Established in 1998, Murphy Fresh is a leading hydroponic tomato growing business,” Dr Sykes.
“The business grows, packages and distributes more than three million kilograms of premium grade truss-grown tomatoes per annum for the domestic fresh fruit and vegetable market.
“As a result of receiving the grant, Murphy Fresh will undertake a Business Development Plan and Business Strategic Review, both of which are designed to pinpoint future growth opportunities.”
Ms McLeish said, “This assistance will enable the company to analyse many key aspects of the business, including management, packing, human resources, sales, distribution and customer service.”
Minister for Small Business Russell Northe said eligible businesses with a commitment to strategic planning and future growth can apply for a grant.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to supporting small businesses in reaching their growth aspirations. The Grow Your Business program provides practical assistance to help them achieve that goal,” Mr Northe said.
“There are 77,000 more jobs in small businesses across Victoria than there were in 2010. That’s because we are building a more productive and better Victoria by providing the economic conditions for small businesses to grow.”
This assistance builds on a Victorian Coalition Government grant through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund of $150,000 which was provided to Murphy Fresh in 2013 to expand its operations.
For more information on Grow Your Business and other Victorian Government support programs, go to or call 13 22 15.


Thursday, July 17, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today the Victorian Coalition Government is teaming up with Planet Ark for National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day to provide free trees to community groups and schools.
Dr Sykes said community groups and schools in north east Victoria who want to be part of National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day are encouraged to apply for free seedlings through the Coalition Government’s 2 Million Trees Program.
Dr Sykes said the 2 Million Trees Program was part of the Napthine Government’s commitment to supporting local communities take practical environmental action.
“Planting trees for Schools Tree Day on Friday 25 July or National Tree Day on Sunday 27 July couldn’t be easier,” he said.
“Trees are essential for a healthy environment as they provide shade, clean the air and help cool the environment. They also provide habitat for animals and help protect our water catchments.
“That’s why the Coalition Government is committed to delivering the 2 Million Trees Program that will see 1.5 million trees planted in Melbourne’s parklands and public spaces and 500,000 trees along waterways in regional Victoria.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “I am very pleased to announce that free trees are available to community groups and schools for National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day.
“I encourage everyone in our local community to take part in planting a tree that will help boost the health of our environment and I am looking forward to participating in a National Tree Day event in the Euroa electorate,” she said.
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the 2 Million Trees Program was another example of how the Coalition Government is delivering practical and measured environmental outcomes.
“The Coalition Government is building a better Victoria, through community projects such as 2 Million Trees Program, which will make your local area an even better place to live,” Mr Smith said.
“I encourage everyone to get involved in this fantastic community program. By working together we can create a healthier environment and stronger local communities.”
National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day are an Australia-wide initiative run through Planet Ark.
To apply for free seedlings visit To see what events are taking place in your local area visit


Monday, July 14, 2014
• Natural gas open day for north east Victoria
• An independent facilitator to oversee all sessions
• Victorian Coalition Government committed to consulting with the local community about onshore natural gas
The Victorian Coalition Government has announced the next stage of the onshore natural gas community and stakeholder engagement program, Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today.
An open day will be held in Wangaratta on Tuesday 29 July 2014 at the Wangaratta Uniting Church Hall, 10 Rowan Street from 2pm to 8pm.
The open days provide an opportunity for people to share their views with independent facilitators about a potential onshore natural gas industry in Victoria, as well as accessing factual information from technical specialists, including geologists and hydrogeologists.
Dr Sykes said, “A number of local constituents have raised their concerns with me in relation to coal seam gas mining including from areas such as Hansonville, Meadow Creek and Taminick.
“I welcome the Victorian Coalition Government’s commitment to engage with the community and want to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues before making decisions on this important matter.”
The Nationals candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan said, “I encourage anyone who has an interest in learning more about onshore gas to participate in the community engagement program which will also provide an opportunity to put forward local views on this important matter.”
The independent facilitators are focusing on consulting with people living in districts that are more likely to contain unconventional gas, but anyone from other districts is also welcome to attend.
Further engagement activities will include meetings with community groups, local government and farmers, and workshops to discuss specific issues in greater depth.
Feedback can also be provided at any time through the natural gas information website at
Water science studies are also being conducted alongside the community engagement process, examining the impacts of potential onshore natural gas developments on Victoria’s water resources.
For more information about upcoming open days and events as well as the Victorian water science studies visit


Friday, July 11, 2014
• Victorian Coalition Government provides nearly $50,000 for fence and deck improvements at Benalla Racing Club
• Works scheduled for completion before first spring race meeting on 16 September
Nationals Member for Benalla Bill Sykes today announced an investment of nearly $100,000 in two projects at Benalla racecourse - a new deck to bring racegoers closer to the racing action and perimeter fencing to provide a safer racing environment.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has supported these important upgrades to ensure Benalla racecourse continues to maintain the highest possible safety standards and attract good crowds,” Dr Sykes said.
“The new deck is a great investment for the Benalla Racecourse that will enhance the race day experience for patrons and also make the racecourse an attractive venue to host a range of non-racing functions.
“The new deck’s positioning will provide patrons with a great view of the track and will be a fantastic addition for the club and the local community.”
Benalla Racing Club President Greg McNulty said the funding would enable the club to enhance its on-course facilities, providing another attractive option when attending a race meeting in Benalla.
“With more people attending Benalla meetings, visitors will stay longer in our community, and this will also benefit local businesses,” Mr McNulty said.
It is anticipated that the new deck will be completed ahead of the club’s first spring race meeting on 16 September and will be a much sought after spot for the Benalla Cup meeting on 5 October.
The Coalition Government is providing $32,500 towards the new decking through its Victorian Racing Industry Fund, with the Benalla Racing Club contributing the remaining $32,500 towards the total project cost of $65,000.
The racecourse will also benefit from the installation of over 550 metres of 1.8 metre high chainmesh fencing and two new and enhanced access gates to the racecourse road boundary.
Candidate for Euroa, Steph Ryan also welcomed this investment from the Victorian Coalition Government.
“The safety of everyone involved in race day activities – jockey, trainers, horses and patrons – is paramount,” Ms Ryan said.
“Improved perimeter fencing will reduce the likelihood of a horse getting out onto the road and provide a safer environment for those using nearby roads,” she said.
Country Racing Victoria Chief Executive, Scott Whiteman offered thanks to the Victorian Government for its contribution to this important project.
“The new perimeter fencing at Benalla will secure the boundary between the racecourse and the road, providing a safer working environment for all industry participants while also ensuring the welfare of the general public and surrounding road users,” Mr Whiteman said.
The Coalition Government is providing $16,850 for the fencing upgrades through its Victorian Racing Industry Fund, with the Benalla Racing Club and Racing Victoria contributing the balance towards the total project cost of $33,700.
Premier of Victoria and Minister for Racing Denis Napthine said the Coalition Government was a strong supporter of country racing and was committed to growing the economic and social benefits arising from the racing industry and assisting country racing clubs with infrastructure improvements.
“The racing industry provides an economic benefit of $227 million to the Goulburn region which includes over 2,200 full-time jobs and direct participation of more than 8,300 people,” he said.
“The Victorian Government’s $79.5 million Victorian Racing Industry Fund, derived from unclaimed wagering dividends and on-course wagering taxes, is critical to growing these economic benefits.”


Thursday, July 10, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today Victorian local governments are invited to seek funding from a new Transport Accident Commission (TAC) grants program designed to reduce deaths and injuries on local roads.
Councils can apply for money for local projects to improve safety for their community’s riders and pedestrians through the new LGA Small Infrastructure Grants Program.
Dr Sykes said the program was aimed at preventing residents in north east Victoria from being injured on local roads.
“This program is about encouraging local solutions to the local safety concerns of cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.
“Cyclists and pedestrians account for more than 1,600 injuries across the state each year. The Coalition Government recognises the value of addressing this at a local level.
“Local government authorities are well-placed to understand local issues and are connected with local community groups who understand where safety improvements are required,” he said.
Local governments can apply for grants of up to $25,000 for planning and researching innovative safety treatments. Councils with plans already in place are eligible to apply for matched-funding grants of up to $100,000 to cover the cost of developing the new infrastructure.
The Nationals candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan said, “This is a fantastic initiative that provides area-wide or route-based solutions. An example might be a gateway project that indicates to motorists that they are entering a high-pedestrian zone, or it could be new crossings or bike paths to separate cyclists from cars,” she said.
TAC claims data shows that children and middle aged men are most at risk of being injured while cycling. Injuries resulting in a trip to hospital are most likely to occur at intersections (30 per cent), followed by riders being struck from behind by a car or other motorised vehicle moving in the same direction (25 per cent).
Assistant Treasurer, Mr Rich-Phillips said the new program was a commitment in the Coalition Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2013-2022.
“The public told us that more bike lanes and paths and more pedestrian crossings were needed,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.
Victorian local governments have until August 30 to submit an application for a share of the $1 million in TAC funding available in the first round of the annual grants program.
The LGA Small Infrastructure Grants Program was developed in consultation with local councils, the Municipal Association of Victoria, VicRoads and other stakeholders, including Victoria Walks, Bicycle Network Victoria and the RACV.
Local government authorities and community groups wanting more information can visit For more information about the Victorian Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2013-2022 visit:


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

  -$500,000 investment to position Nagambie as a tourist destination
  -New roundabout, road upgrade, landscaping and outdoor dining
  -Victorian Coalition Government investing in regional communities

The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will invest $500,000 in stage one of the $837,000 redevelopment of the Nagambie town centre, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan announced today.
Following the completion of the Nagambie bypass in 2013, the local community has been keen for the town to reposition itself from a highway rest stop destination to a genuine visitor destination.
Responding to this call, Mr Ryan was joined by The Nationals candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan and Member for Benalla Bill Sykes in Nagambie to announce the Coalition Government’s $500,000 investment through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.
Mr Ryan said the redevelopment of the town centre would include a new roundabout at the southern entrance to Nagambie, road upgrades, landscaping works, and the creation of new outdoor dining areas to encourage buses and recreation vehicles to stop in the town.
“Now that the Nagambie bypass has been completed, the community is keen to transition the town from a drive-through destination to a visitor destination,” Mr Ryan said.
“Nagambie has many great attractions including the magnificent Nagambie Lakes, its proximity to the Strathbogie Ranges, world class food and wine, and a life size bronze statue of the world famous mare Black Caviar.
“As a government, we are enabling the community to capitalise on its many great attractions, ensuring Nagambie becomes a central hub for visitors to the region.
“By encouraging more visitors into town, we are putting locals first and supporting local businesses and local jobs.”
Ms Ryan welcomed the $500,000 investment and said it was another example of what The Nationals could achieve by working as part of a strong Coalition Government team.
“This project is the first stage of an exciting redevelopment that will help transform Nagambie
into a vibrant visitor destination,” Ms Ryan said.
“The Strathbogie Shire Council has developed concept plans for the redevelopment of the
entire length of High Street over six stages.
“I look forward to working with Peter Ryan and the Coalition Government to help secure
further funding to complete additional stages of this important local project.”
Dr Sykes said the redevelopment was one of 25 projects the Regional Growth Fund had
supported in the Strathbogie Shire over the past three years.
“Since the middle of 2011 the Regional Growth Fund has delivered more than $400 million
across regional and rural Victoria, generating well over $1.6 billion in total investment across
almost 1,500 projects,” Dr Sykes said.
“Through the Regional Growth Fund we have been able to secure funding for many important
local projects including vital funding to carry out landscaping works at the Black Caviar statue
Dr Sykes said stage one of Nagambie town centre redevelopment would be completed by the
middle of next year.


Monday, July 07, 2014
North East Water residential and business customers will get lower water bills over the next four years thanks to the Victorian Coalition Government’s Fairer Water Bills initiative.
Bill Tilley, Member for Benambra said the lower bills had been achieved through the Victorian Coalition Government’s Fairer Water Bills initiative.
“Thanks to the Coalition Government’s Fairer Water Bill’s initiative, the average household water bill for North East Water customers will drop by $65 each year compared with prices previously approved by the Essential Services Commission,” Mr Tilley said.
Member for Murray Valley, Tim McCurdy said the Coalition Government is committed to driving down the cost of living and our Fairer Water Bills initiative is making a real difference to household budgets.
“We asked water corporations to provide advice on potential productivity and efficiency gains within their businesses which could be adopted to help deliver lower household water bills,” Mr McCurdy said.
“North-East Water identified capital cost savings and operational cost savings which will be delivered without compromising service standards or existing hardship protections that assist vulnerable customers.
“As a result of Fairer Water Bills, there will be a price freeze on the fixed component of residential water bills and a 10 percent reduction in water price tariffs for North East Water customers.”
Bill Sykes, Member for Benalla also welcomed the savings commending North East Water management and staff for their efforts.
North East Water identified efficiencies such as:
• Resuming control of the Wodonga Wastewater Treatment Plant;
• Disposal of redundant assets such as the North East Water’s former head office; and
• Reduced energy costs by shifting demand to off-peak rates.
Minister for Water Peter Walsh said the Coalition Government’s Fairer Water Bills was delivering lower household bills after Labor’s legacy of waste and mismanagement.
“I thank North East Water for working co-operatively with the Office of Living Victoria and with the independent review team, led by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, to save money for its customers,” Mr Walsh said.
North East Water Chair David McKenzie said that the organisation was proud to pass on these efficiencies to its customers through reduced prices.
“We pride ourselves on providing high quality water and wastewater services at great value for money and we are confident that people across the north-east will remain committed to water conservation despite the reduce tariffs,” he said. 


Friday, July 04, 2014

Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes today welcomed the appointment of local engineering company, Rural Works of Violet Town, to complete the required survey, engineering and project management for the construction of bike paths at Winton Wetlands.
Dr Sykes said, “It is important that local businesses, where possible, are involved in projects such as this and I am pleased that Rural Works have successfully tendered to manage the bike track network project.
“The project involves 20 kilometres of bike paths at the Wetlands.
The bike paths are part of Stage 1 of Winton Wetlands @ Benalla Master Plan and link Benalla via Nelson Road through the Wetlands out onto Lake Mokoan Road and the planned Winton Wetlands Visitor Hub and Café.
“Another contract has just been given to Benalla company Landmark Construction Group for the construction of the $1.2 million Visitor Hub and Café, and more contracts will be put out for tender in the coming months.”
Dr Sykes said, “Benalla Rural City Council will also be constructing a shared cycling and pedestrian path this coming financial year from Benalla to the Winton Wetlands, occupying the former Lake Mokoan inlet channel land.
“It is pleasing to see significant on ground works commencing so that locals and visitors can enjoy the many beautiful aspects of Winton Wetlands.”


Friday, July 04, 2014
Improving the health of the Goulburn River is the focus over the coming month as environmental water is released to the river.
Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said that from mid-July, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) will manage the environmental release over a two week period from the Goulburn Weir near Nagambie.
“The aim of the flow is to water vegetation on the river banks, increase habitat availability for waterbugs and fish, and improve water quality,” Dr Sykes said.
Dr Sykes said the flows will peak at 9,500 ML/day around July 23 and be above 5,600 ML/day for two weeks from about July 20 to August 2 before returning to minimum flows of about 1000 ML/day.
“These flows take about two weeks to reach the Murray River and will see river heights increase to a maximum of about 5.95 metres (at Shepparton).
“Of course the timing and amount of water released will vary depending on prevailing weather conditions.”
“Additional water is likely to be released from Lake Eildon to provide the necessary water in the Goulburn Weir.
“The amount of water released from Lake Eildon may be up to 5,000-6,000 ML/day depending on natural flows at the time.”
Dr Sykes said the CMA and Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) were aware of the landholder concerns regarding potential intended flooding and accordingly they will monitor natural flows closely and welcome input from local landholders.
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said the Napthine Government recognises that river health is vital for local communities, helps native fish movement and contributes to water quality.
“This is part of the Victorian Coalition Government’s Victorian Environmental Water Holder Seasonal Watering Plan 2014-15 that outlines our commitment to achieve better environmental outcomes in priority river reaches, wetlands and flood plains,” Mr Smith said.
For more information visit  


Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today that the Victorian hairdressing industry will save up to $240,000 a year under proposals to cut registration red tape.
The Public Health & Wellbeing (Hairdressing Red Tape Reduction) Bill introduced in State Parliament last week means that hairdressers and make-up businesses will only have to register once with local councils – rather than annually renewing.
Dr Sykes said cleanliness and hygiene standards will still be enforced by local councils, but the change will remove the need for registration renewal.
Higher-risk personal care and body art businesses involving skin penetration, such as tattooing, body piercing and colonic irrigation, will still require periodic renewals.
“This change recognises that hairdressers are not a high-risk in terms of compliance with public health standards,” he said.
Asha Warnock from Zhen Hair in Benalla welcomed the change and said, “Anything that reduces paperwork is a good thing.”
Dr Sykes continued, “The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to cutting red tape for businesses, and this amendment for hairdressers makes good sense.
“There are around 4,000 hairdressing and barbering businesses in Victoria, and most of them are very small enterprises.
“They are still required to ensure that their premises, equipment and work systems are clean and hygienic, and do not put public health at risk.
“Public health continues to be the number one priority under the proposed amendments and local councils will continue to monitor and enforce compliance with health standards.
“The change will, however, give councils the chance to focus on businesses that pose a more serious risk to public health and safety,” Dr Sykes said.

Contact: Electorate Office: Shop 2, 55 Carrier Street BENALLA 3672. Phone: (03) 5762 2100 Fax: (03) 5762 4478.