My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Ports and Freight, and the action I seek is that she update my electorate on the progress of planning works that are underway to deliver the Shepparton rail line freight upgrade.
Minister, in September last year the state and federal governments announced $10 million of funding from the Victorian regional rail revival package to improve the capacity and efficiency of rail freight from the Goulburn Valley. T
he Victorian government committed $900 000 of that funding to undertake planning works that would investigate rail infrastructure improvements in light of the coming higher frequency passenger services and to determine the future demand for freight services, taking into account the significant growth in agricultural industries in the region.
The Shepparton district is the food bowl of Victoria. We have always been a creative, industrious and self-starting community at the forefront of global food production.
It is worth noting the significance of the annual production and why this is one of the most productive and intensely farmed areas in Australia. The region produces close to 25 per cent of the total value of Victoria’s agricultural production. Our irrigated landscape produces the vast majority of the nation’s fruit production per category, including 86 per cent of Australian pears, 28 per cent of the nation’s apple harvest and 70 per cent of the national peach crop, which you could have tasted from a box outside my office today.
The Murray dairy region is Australia’s largest milk producer. We are also a centre for transport logistics and have one of the highest concentrations of food processing firms in rural Australia, being the home to major companies such as Fonterra, Nestle, Unilever, Bega and of course SPC, to highlight but a few.
Our produce is sought after worldwide as a result of its clean, green reputation, and improved freight access to port would be a tremendous boost to securing our ongoing prosperity.
Minister, the planning work to improve our freight capacity was expected to be completed by early 2019.
Given we are about to enter the second quarter of the year, I would ask for an update for my electorate on the progress of these works.