Mini boom for west

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.

Pic­ture: PAUL CARRACHER

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.

Pic­ture: PAUL CARRACHER

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.

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