The start of the New Year is always a chance to reassess, set new goals, check in on ambitions and plan, so the Advertiser has pinned down some of the region’s key leaders to find out their hopes for 2023. Today we’re looking at what our Federal and State representatives are working towards. Pick up a copy of Thursday’s Advertiser to see if the ambitions of our local government leaders in Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet match up with their Federal and State counterparts. 1. What three regional concerns do you hope are addressed in 2023? O’Connor MP Rick Wilson: Following Federal Labor’s axing of the highly successful Building Better Regions Fund, I would like to see a new program implemented whereby the Great Southern Region gets its fair share of major projects funded. Prior to being elected, Federal Labor had not funded a single mobile phone tower in regional Australia, whereas the former Coalition Government had funded about 150 in my electorate alone. I aim to keep the Federal Government accountable on this very important measure of regional infrastructure provision. Addressing skills shortages in regional areas is a key priority of mine, and I will continue to work toward ensuring available worker visas meet the requirements of the agricultural sector. Albany MLA Rebecca Stephens: Spencer Park revitalisation, Surf Reef project, and Albany Bicentenary. Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie: An increase in affordable housing supply — the State Government is delivering affordable housing across regional WA and is supporting greater access to Keystart home loans and affordable housing options. Workforce shortages — the State Government is working hard to address skills shortages with a range of strategies to attract and train workers. Cost of living pressures — we have a strong economy, but it is a difficult period for people right across Australia. 2. What three projects would you like to gain momentum by the end of the year? Mr Wilson: Major progress on the $175 million Albany Ring Road project, towards which the former Federal Coalition Government contributed $140 million, so the road can open on schedule in early 2024. Having the State Government fix the deadly intersection on Albany Highway at Narrikup. And significant progress on the motocross track at the planned Albany Motorsport Park, significantly funded under the former Federal Coalition Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, so motocross can finally have a home in Albany. Ms Stephens: Workforce shortages — the State Government is working hard to address skills shortages with a range of strategies to attract and train workers, including international recruitment campaigns, incentives and major investment in local training, including the upgraded Albany TAFE. Safer regional roads: Making sure we all stay safe on the roads is always a priority. That’s why we’re continuing to deliver the $175 million Albany Ring Road and investing millions in the Regional Road Safety Program and other measures to make our roads safer for everyone. Faster NBN services — it was great to join the Prime Minister in Albany late last year to hear about the major improvements to the NBN network. The first stage of upgrades will be full fibre to the home NBN rolled out in Albany, McKail, Mira Mar, Orana, Spencer Park, and Yakamia. Ms Kelsbie: Establish a Youth Advisory Group for Warren-Blackwood. Supporting youth to have a voice is a strong passion of mine and I’m looking forward to engaging with young people across Warren-Blackwood. The delivery of WA’s first pumped hydro renewable microgrid in Walpole and this being a blueprint for greater power reliability projects. The redevelopment of the Denmark Surf Life Saving Club and Ocean Beach Precinct, including much needed toilets at Prawn Rock Channel. 3. What three things do you hope will be better in 2023 than 2022? Mr Wilson: Hopefully the main impacts of COVID-19 will finally be behind us; I hope that wine producers and barley farmers are back trading with their Chinese customers; and I trust the Dockers will go a step or two further in the AFL finals, and the Eagles’ rebuild will proceed at pace. Ms Stephens: Seeing the Eagles back playing finals, seeing great take-up of the fee-free TAFE courses here in Albany, and seeing even more support for local businesses. Ms Kelsbie: A less hectic bushfire season. It was heartbreaking to see our region on fire last year. Stronger protections for our LGBTIQA+ community thanks to our government’s reforms and anti-discrimination legislation, including banning conversion therapies. More volunteers for our local emergency services to help share the load. The holiday period really highlights the contribution and sacrifices that emergency service volunteers make, putting others before themselves and their families. 4. What do you hope to have achieved by the year’s end? Mr Wilson: I hope to have played a role in changing Federal and State Labor’s metro-centric mindset to an outlook that embraces country people and places, and recognises their importance to the culture and economy of our great nation. Ms Stephens: Albany is growing in size, diversity, vibrancy, and economic output. It’s a thriving community and economy that I am proud to represent in State Parliament. My role is to facilitate and champion Albany’s continued growth and prosperity by encouraging investment, by providing solutions to challenges, and by passionately advocating for Albany’s people. I hope to continue helping make Albany a more liveable city by connecting people to each other and to projects and opportunities. Ms Kelsbie: I hope to continue to be a strong advocate for the people of Warren-Blackwood, helping locals navigate the challenges of Government to secure funding, support, and additional services. It’s important to me to ensure that Ministers are continuing to spend time in our region, meeting community members, groups, organisations, and businesses so they understand both the challenges we face and opportunities in our electorate. 5. What do you hope your community will have achieved by the year’s end? Mr Wilson: Albany’s bicentenary is a major milestone for the Great Southern region. The former Coalition Federal Government provided $270,000 for strategic planning work for the bicentenary. I would like to see significant projects, events and further Federal and State funding for the bicentenary locked in by the end of 2023. Ms Stephens: Albany’s vibrant, connected, cohesive community is going from strength to strength in terms of our appreciation of the natural environment, the resilience of our economy, and the potential growth evident in key sectors. This strength is driven by people: families, employees, employers, volunteers, residents and visitors alike. I know and trust the people of Albany to keep seeing the big picture, to keep working together to make our lives the best they can be and to keep respecting, supporting and encouraging each other. Ms Kelsbie: We are incredibly lucky to have an active, diverse, and passionate community here in the Great Southern. I hope to see our community continue to work collaboratively, supporting one another and contributing in their own way to making our region such an amazing place to live.