The Wim­mera, yes we ex­ist!

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

The emails went back­wards and for­wards, so much so that the orig­i­nal rea­son for the com­mu­ni­ca­tion al­most be­came lost in the con­fus­ing process.

A me­dia re­lease an­nounc­ing health is­sues spe­cific to the Grampians re­gion slipped into our ‘in­box’ and cap­tured our at­ten­tion.

Okay, the ‘Grampians’ – bet­ter check what that means. Is it the Grampians, the area fring­ing our fa­mous na­tional park and in the heart of our read­er­ship area, or a gov­ern­ment re­gional di­vi­sion based on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment?

It was of course one of Vic­to­ria’s five eco­nomic re­gions, a re­gion that stretches from the edge of Mel­bourne to the Mallee in the north and the South Aus­tralian bor­der and Ta­tiara to the west. In other words, a large chunk of the state. So… where were we talk­ing about with this spe­cific health is­sue?

A large chunk of western Vic­to­ria, that’s where, rang­ing from ma­jor pro­vin­cial and re­gional cities to ru­ral towns and com­mu­ni­ties.

Okay, got it. Get the mes­sage out that peo­ple living in this area needed to do some­thing to im­prove their health. Fair enough.

The prob­lem was, the met­ro­pol­i­tan-based de­part­men­tal of­fi­cial in charge of dis­sem­i­nat­ing the in­for­ma­tion knew lit­tle about his­tor­i­cal western Vic­to­rian re­gions or was un­will­ing to ac­knowl­edge them as le­git­i­mate col­lec­tive ar­eas.

The ‘Grampians’ re­gion was his sole point of ref­er­ence and he wasn’t budg­ing.

We’ve writ­ten in the past about con­cerns of re­gional am­bi­gu­ity in ref­er­ence to gov­er­nance and es­sen­tial-ser­vice pro­vi­sion and this was just an­other re­minder.

If there is a per­cep­tion at cer­tain lev­els of bu­reau­cratic power that the Wim­mera doesn’t re­ally ex­ist, it can eas­ily be­come a reality, re­gard­less of his­tory.

Over ex­pan­sion of re­gional op­er­a­tional boundaries driven by the ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of es­sen­tial-ser­vice ad­min­is­tra­tion has gone too far in western Vic­to­ria.

The idea of fall­ing back to Ballarat as a point of ref­er­ence re­flects in­cred­i­bly shal­low think­ing but it’s been there for a while, does noth­ing to stim­u­late growth and is go­ing to be hard to change.

The great risk in cre­at­ing or ac­cept­ing tyran­nies of dis­tance is that met­ro­pol­i­tan-based power­bro­kers can lose, or never have any, touch with ev­ery­day peo­ple across the re­gions – some­thing that shouldn’t hap­pen in a state the size of Vic­to­ria.

Ridicu­lous

It is ridicu­lous that some­one in Mel­bourne should con­sider the Wim­mera, an area cov­er­ing al­most 42,000 square kilo­me­tres of the state, an ob­scure sub-re­gion. Fair go!

If there aren’t enough peo­ple across this amount of coun­try to jus­tify it qual­i­fy­ing as any­thing more, then that it­self is a glar­ing red flag for a state that has a capital city slowly chok­ing it­self with a seem­ingly un­con­trolled and costly ur­ban sprawl.

The ob­ser­va­tion is noth­ing new. Decades ago some peo­ple frus­trated with a lack of recog­ni­tion or ad­e­quate gov­er­nance se­ri­ously pro­posed draw­ing up new state boundaries.

Their idea was to cre­ate a prov­ince based on the col­lec­tive in­ter­ests of far western Vic­to­ria and parts of the south-east of South Aus­tralia.

Non­sense? Maybe so, but we can cer­tainly un­der­stand the sen­ti­ment.

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