Wimmera and Southern Mallee blueprint recommends ag cluster, settlement network

IDEAS: Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy launches the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan in Horsham on Wednesday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

IDEAS: Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy launches the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan in Horsham on Wednesday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

A BLUEPRINT for the Wimmera and Southern Mallee's future recommends creating a settlement network, clustering agricultural industries, improving road and rail, and building on the region's industry and environmental strengths.

Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy launched The Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan last week.

Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Peter Brown said the 82-page document focused on using the region's land to the best advantage.

"So the things we will need to think about are how we use the land around the Grampians, where we should put agriculture, and how we should develop industrial estates that suit each of the communities in the Wimmera," he said.

The plan outlines a regional settlement strategy, with Horsham at its heart.

It also identifies six district towns, or sub-regional hubs: Edenhope, Hopetoun, Nhill, St Arnaud, Stawell and Warracknabeal.

Each of the towns is strategically placed to service smaller towns nearby and link in with suggested industry or infrastructure developments.

The plan also highlights a need to strengthen bonds between smaller towns and settlements, and larger communities.

Population density, environmental opportunities and existing industries and infrastructure have influenced the plan's recommendations for land use.

It suggests creating industry clusters that build on regional strengths, including a piggery and poultry cluster to the region's east and a grain production cluster to the north and west.

The plan also recommends boosting the Wimmera and Southern Mallee's energy production, primarily through solar and bioenergy.

It said building on the region's road and rail infrastructure would be key to the Wimmera and Southern Mallee's success.

But underpinning it all is a need to comprehensively map the region.

"For example, one of the projects the councils are going to work on is developing better geographic information systems," Mr Brown said.

"It's something the catchment management authorities and GWMWater do well, and I think Northern Grampians Shire Council does it reasonably well, but the rest of the shire councils don't do as well. But, collaboratively, we could do it well."

The growth plan encompasses Horsham, Hindmarsh, Northern Grampians, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack municipalities.

Mr Brown said a common mapping system would not only benefit local governments and departmental agencies, but organisations such as emergency services.

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