Could changing habits drive decentralisation?

CORONAVIRUS could end up driving opportunities for decentralisation, according to a Gippsland MP.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester has used social media to float the hope that changed habits may result in more people living and working in regional areas, including Gippsland.

“There’s no time for complacency, but we are daring to think about the recovery process,” he wrote on in Facebook page on Saturday.

“We can’t just go back to the way things were before the drought, bushfires and pandemic and pretend everything will be alright.

“As a region, Gippsland needs to diversify its economic base, invest in new opportunities and work together to achieve our full potential.

“Strangely, the coronavirus may be an opportunity for regions like Gippsland.

“As more people work from home and realise they don’t need to always travel to a big city office every day, they are realising there’s other ways to live.

“Given the choice between a 90-minute drive battling peak hour traffic and a walk from the kitchen to their work station in the lounge room, don’t be surprised if a lot of people start asking their bosses for more flexible working arrangements in the future.”

Mr Chester said decentralisation had been talked about forever, “but I’m hoping it’s time has come”.

“It’s an opportunity for our region,” he said.

“… we need better connectivity in all its forms to drive a better future for Gippsland and Latrobe Valley.”

Mr Chester said he had been pushing the case for 20 years for spending on roads, rail and airport infrastructure in Gippsland, as well as improvements to telecommunications and the elimination of mobile black spots.

“Backed by better access to health, education, disability and aged care services, these investments will attract more families to live and work in our region,” he said.

“We need governments to push more public servants out of our cities, and we need to provide the planning support and even financial incentives to encourage private enterprise to see the opportunities in our regions.

“As a region, Gippsland needs to diversify its economic base, invest in new opportunities and work together to achieve our full potential,” Mr Chester said.

“Our business community is rallying and striving to keep staff employed, with help from the government.

“We are winning the health battle and suppressing the spread of the virus which is protecting our families and keeping health workers safe.

“The drought, bushfires and coronavirus pandemic have provided enormous challenges for thousands of Gippslanders and I don’t want to under-estimate the severity of the situation.

“It’s tough for a lot of people right now, perhaps the toughest we’ve seen in a modern lifetime.

“But on our hardest days and in the most difficult circumstances we can still have hope for better days ahead.”