Calder funding put on ice


Melton commuters’ hopes of faster and smoother journeys in and out of the municipality have been dashed in the state budget, with funding to upgrade the Calder Freeway put on ice

The 2024-25 state budget, handed down by treasurer Tim Pallas on May 7, confirmed the future of the Calder Freeway improvements project remains uncertain, with the state government detailing that it has paused the project as it works with the federal government to “understand the impact” of its decision to withdraw federal funding from the project last year.

In November last year, the federal government released its long-awaited national infrastructure review detailing that the Calder Freeway would not be receiving the multi-million dollar funding that was promised.

The federal government had allocated $50 million in funding in 2019, with the state government announcing it would also allocate $50 million to the project in 2021.

Since then, question marks have hung over the state government’s $50-million funding, with it refusing to confirm whether its investment for Calder Freeway upgrades would go ahead.

Calder Action Group president Russell Mowatt said community members are “appalled” by the decision to pause the funding.

“Talking with other community members there is a sense of prejudice against the north-west communities, councils and [the] Calder Highway Improvement Committee who have recently voiced their unanimous voice to fund the Calder Freeway at a ‘Fix the Calder’ campaign,” he said.

The budget also contained no additional funding for the Western Freeway upgrade between Melton and Caroline Springs.

The Labor party pledged in the lead up to the last state election that it would allocate $10 million for a business case, following the federal government having made the same commitment.

The federal government axed funding to the Western Freeway Upgrade from the M80 Ring Road to Ferris Road in November however, it wasn’t expected to affect the $20 million Western Freeway business case that is already underway.

The business case was expected to be completed later this year, but Star Weekly understands it is still in progress.

In some good news for the Melton municipality, $6.4 million has been promised to upgrade Toolern Vale and District Primary School, while new schools will be built at Cobblebank and Weir Views. Funding was also set aside for land acquisition for Aintree North Primary School.

There will be $63.77 million allocated in the 2024-25 financial year towards the Melton Hospital, with construction expected to commence later this year.

The majority of the $41.8 million previously allocated for a new Melton Tafe campus has also been included in this budget.

The budget also included $41 million in next financial year for the $650 million Melton line upgrade.

Also announced were four new schools to be built in the City of Melton to open in 2026, money

Continued funding for the Melton FlexiRide service to provide public transport access to areas in Melton South, Weir Views and Thornhill Park was also included.

Mayor Kathy Majdlik said welcomed the funding but “strong residential and commercial growth” in the municipality meant there was “more work to be done”.

“Over 40,000 residents do not have adequate access to regular public transport, and we continue to call for increased funding for our bus network.

“We will continue to advocate for our fair share of funding to deliver critical transport projects such as new bus routes and train stations.”

Moorabool council chief executive Derek Madden said his council would out forward projects for a share in $1 billion in roads funding included in the budget and would also look closely at grant funding for its early years program.

“We knew it would be a difficult budget with not a lot of funding for new projects, but we’ll be looking at what grants funding we can use to fund some of the projects in our advocacy prospectus,” he said.