Mini boom for west
Australia’s geographically unique west Wimmera is building towards a mini eco-tourism boom as people flock to the region to experience conditions in the state’s most expansive wetland system.
Water-sport, wildlife and environmental enthusiasts from across Victoria and interstate have been joining regional holiday-makers in response to the return of water after two years of drought. The arrival of water and influx of visitors, combined with strong harvest results, is generating renewed confidence across the region.
The west Wimmera, while part of a broad and rich agricultural region, is also renowned for its extensive lakes network, the result of north-south swales and ridgeways created millions of years ago by an ever-retreating inland sea.
The landscape is now a profound and nationally significant example of an Australian boom-and-bust wetland environment where ‘boom’ periods extend beyond the landscape to influence socio-economic community health and vibrancy.
West Wimmera Shire Council chief executive David Leahy confirmed a significant lift in confidence across the municipality.
“Community confidence level of the shire is exceptional,” he said.
“The water flowing into the lakes and wetlands combined with the farming yields, particularly from the northern part of the shire, has given everyone a major boost.
“Lake Wallace at Edenhope has had water skiers on it for the first time in decades and it’s these types of changes that are promoting a degree of confidence that hasn’t been there for a long time.”
The lift in activity at west Wimmera lakes and wetlands is providing impetus for a major redevelopment project at Lake Charlegrark, a popular water-sport destination near Goroke. Lake Charlegrark, at one stage the unofficial Murray cod angling capital of Victoria, is in line for an overall $750,000 to $800,000 amenities overhaul.
The shire council, working closely with a busy Lake Charlegrark community group which will provide more than $100,000 for the project, also has federal funding and also has applications in for state money.
Mr Leahy said the level of community interest in and use of the lake justified the development.
“Charlegrark is predominantly managed by the community group, which has shown great regional leadership to take the bit between the teeth,” he said.
“Amenities blocks, laundry facilities and power at the lake will be subject to major upgrades.
“Septic and sewer systems will also be tidied up and there is also going to be a bit of work to upgrade the jetty.
“While it’s recognition that the lake provides the shire permanent recreation water supply, it is also an opportunity to showcase what the shire offers.”
Other regional lakes such as Booroopki and Bringalbert have also attracted many visitors during the summer and the many other wetlands have been magnets for day-trippers.
Mr Leahy agreed strong visitor interest augured well for major annual community events planned for the shire during the next month.
He said Edenhope’s Henley on Lake Wallace family festival on February 11 would be the ‘first in a long time’ where the festival would occur with water in the lake.
A festival program is loaded with activities highlighted by an aerobatics display by stunt pilot Chris Sperou, a colour run, live music, an appearance by children’s television character Peppa Pig and climaxing with a fireworks display.
A week later from February 18 to 19 Lake Charlegrark will burst into song with the Lake Charlegrark Country Music Marathon.
Mr Leahy said these events were likely to reflect the upturn in a positive approach and attitudes across the shire.
“Investigations are also well underway to assess the potential to improve west Wimmera water security by piping supply via the Wimmera-mallee Pipeline,” he said.
COOLING OFF: Jenna Lockhart, 4, enjoys an ice-cream while cooling off in the shallows of Lake Charlegrark near Goroke. Jenna and her family, from Naracoorte, have been among the many water-sport enthusiasts making the most of idyllic summer conditions.
QUALITY TIME: Naracoorte’s Belinda, Adam and Lucy, 2, Mullins spend a summer’s day at Lake Charlegrark, which is in line for an amenities overhaul valued at $750,000 to $800,000.