WORK to implement a blueprint for the Wimmera and Southern Mallee’s future is underway.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Jo Bourke said preliminary work started shortly after the draft Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan was submitted more than a year ago.
Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy launched the plan in Horsham on Wednesday.
Now, Mrs Bourke said efforts to make it a reality could progress.
“To have it officially launched is really quite important,” she said.
“The key example is the farm zone changes.
“By having the regional growth plan we can actually generate those sorts of discussions in the region, and approach the State Government to have changes made to regulation and legislation.
“This gives us a regional-scale view of the development issues and opportunities for each of the five councils, and a way to work together to address them.”
The plan encompasses Horsham, Hindmarsh, Northern Grampians, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack municipalities.
It is one of eight regional growth plans throughout the state.
Great South Coast’s Regional Growth Plan was also launched in Hamilton on Wednesday, while Loddon Mallee North’s Regional Growth Plan was launched on Thursday in Birchip.
“This is the first time in Australia any state government has worked with councils to start planning on a regional basis,” Mr Guy said.
“We are looking at an overarching strategy that focuses on regions throughout Victoria, that gives a lot more certainty, security and clarity of policy to people who are residents, investors, or just operating in this field in business.”
Mr Guy said there was much in the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan to be optimistic about.
“More than anything else this part of Victoria is still heavily reliant on agriculture as its primary economic base,” he said.
“The economy here – nearly a billion dollars worth of agricultural production – is massively significant to Victoria’s economy.
“It needs a plan that respects and acknowledges that, and knows we are going to grow our economy around an agricultural base but that our economy will diversify over a period of time.
“I think this plan does that – credit to the councils and departments for working together to get to where we are today.”
Mr Guy said the importance of regional planning was highlighted by West Wimmera Shire Council’s input into farm zone reforms in 2011-12.
“The regional growth plans highlight specific areas and municipalities that affect all of Victoria and don’t just view regional and rural planning in the prism of peri-urban Melbourne, which has for too long been the focus of planning policy in this state,” he said.
“Regional and rural planning policy should not be focused on places like Ballan, Kilmore or Warragul, it has got to be focused on places like Horsham and other communities toward the border.”
Mr Guy said the regional growth plan would also clarify the intents and priorities of local and state governments.