The first sod has been turned on the West Gippsland Arts Centre upgrade, with the project set to create new local jobs and increase tourism.

Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash said the $13.4 million investment would mean bigger and better shows for the local area.

“I aim to build the kinds of regional communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to, a high-quality centre for performing arts does just that,” Minister Nash said.

“This project is expected to create 160 direct jobs during construction, along with another 21 ongoing jobs, which is a great outcome for the region.”

Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent said the extensive upgrades would provide a great stopping point for tourists visiting the region.

“The upgrades will include a café, upgraded theatre capacity, and an increased ability to hold major conferences, business and community events,” Mr Broadbent said.

“This region has a lot to offer and I am keen to see visitors take advantage of what this facility has to offer, including the ability to host major events.”

“It’s great to see the number of jobs created already and I am looking forward to its completion in mid-2018.”

The Coalition Government committed $4 million toward the project, with the Victorian Government ($4 million) and Baw Baw Shire Council ($5.4 million) funding the remainder.