THE Wimmera goes on show on Friday in a high-powered joint selling pitch to people in Melbourne.
Wimmera councils and Wimmera Development Association will showcase the beneﬁts of living and working in the region in an effort to arrest declining populations.
The Regional Victoria Living Expo at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre starts today and continues until Sunday.
Horsham Rural City Council, Yarriambiack Shire Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council, Hindmarsh Shire Council and West Wimmera Shire Council will be represented at the expo.
New Australian Bureau of Statistics ﬁgures show the population declined in each of the four shires last ﬁnancial year.
West Wimmera was the hardest hit, falling by 106 people or 2.5 per cent.
The population of Hindmarsh fell by 86 people or 1.5 per cent; Northern Grampians by 146 or 1.2 per cent; and Yarriambiack by 84 or 1.2 per cent.
Horsham’s population grew by 56 people or 0.3 per cent.
The populations of Yarriambiack, West Wimmera and Hindmarsh have declined every year since 2003.
Hindmarsh Mayor and Rural Councils Victoria chairman Rob Gersch said he would use the expo to entice people to move to the Wimmera.
“One of the big problems we face in our council is loss of population and losing young people after year 12 – what we’re trying to do is reverse that,” he said.
Cr Gersch said housing affordability, education, health, recreational facilities and the welcoming nature of country people were his main selling points for potential ‘tree changers’.
He said the expo – in its third year – was an excellent way to ‘nibble away’ at population decline in the Wimmera.
Wimmera Development Association will showcase business and employment opportunities in the region.
Project officer Tammy McDonald said the association would present details of employment opportunities.
“It’s been really good, we’ve had a good response with 20 businesses listed for sale and 48 positions vacant,” she said.
“There’s health, community services, management positions, technical positions, so it’s a really good spread across a wide range of industries.
“The lifestyle sells itself, it’s just how they’re going to pay for their lifestyle when they move here.”
Horsham Rural City economic and business development manager Colin Kemp said people at the expo could make appointments to be shown around Horsham.
“We’re inviting people to come up for a weekend,” he said.
“Some of the councils will have open days but this is a personalised invitation so if someone’s keen to move we can show them exactly what we have to offer.”
He said the tours would be tailored to people’s interests and needs.
Mr Kemp said the expo had shown proven results in the past three years.
“Probably three months ago we were out doing ﬁre recovery and a woman said ‘I remember you from the expo last year’,” he said.
She was Pauline Kennedy, the owner of Orchid Lane Cottages at Dadswells Bridge.
Ms Kennedy said she decided to move from the Yarra Valley to the Wimmera based on what she learnt at the expo.
“We moved for the lifestyle,” she said.
“I love the country and I love this area now that I am getting to know it better.”
Yarriambiack councillor Kylie Zanker said two Warracknabeal residents would be among the shire’s team at the expo.
She said Sally Gebert from the Creekside Hotel and John Hadley from Northwest Real Estate would reinforce the positives of living, working and facilitating a business in a regional area.