West Wimmera council slams Wimmera and Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan

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

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

WEST Wimmera councillors have slammed a State Government plan for the region's future, labelling it absolutely useless.

The Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan was released earlier this month and is a long-term vision for managing growth and change and protecting liveability in the region.

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

Cr Bruce Meyer said the plan completely overlooked West Wimmera Shire.

"There is nothing in it for us and I am very disappointed," he said.

"This has been drawn up by bureaucrats who have shown ignorance to this part of the world.

"This plan is not worth the paper it is written on."

The plan details land use planning in the region and identifies opportunities for encouraging growth.

Cr Meyer said the shire was important because it was a large farming and irrigation area.

"There are some years when this shire grows half the Wimmera's grain - yet we are not recognised at all," he said.

The plan will form part of council's planning scheme.

Mayor Ron Hawkins said the plan would make it difficult for the shire to move forward.

"Any major developments we want in the area won't be easy because there will be so much red tape," he said.

Cr Annette Johns said council was required to make sure its own strategies aligned with the plan.

"But it doesn't align at all and it's going to make it difficult for us to do our own council plan," she said.

"It gives us no room to move."

Cr Meyer said the plan only promoted growth in regional centres and larger towns.

"It just promotes Nhill and Horsham," he said. "We have highlighted our issues before and nothing came of it."

Chief executive Mark Crouch said that because the plan had already been launched there was no way to change it.

"It is locked in place ," he said.

"However it is a regional plan and at the end of the day we are part of the region.

"Many other councils had concerns with it as well - it was never going to be a perfect document."

The Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Growth Plan's scope ranges from rural land use to energy.

Issues outlined include duplicating the Western Highway to the South Australian border, improving telecommunication black spots and boosting tourism potential throughout the region.

Northern Grampians Shire chief executive Justine Linley, who chaired the plan's steering committee, said the plan talked about population change and growth.

"The plan isn't all about Horsham - it's actually about developing our small communities and providing connections and links between each of those communities," she said.

"We know the region has a population of about 50,000 people all up, and we would like to be able to see that grow quite substantially in the next 10 to 20 years."

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