Re­gion alive, ac­tive

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

Apro­ces­sion of ma­jor events un­fold­ing across the Wim­mera, Grampians and south­ern Mallee are pump­ing mil­lions of dol­lars into re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.

Gov­ern­ment de­vel­op­ment agen­cies are closely fol­low­ing the im­pact and evo­lu­tion of these events and not­ing ob­vi­ous so­cio-eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

Re­gional de­vel­op­ment leader Stu­art Ben­jamin said many large-scale com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties dom­i­nat­ing a late sum­mer and au­tumn cal­en­dar were ma­jor eco­nomic stim­u­lants.

He said this meant ma­jor events that at­tracted peo­ple into their cities, towns and re­gions, were ‘in no small way’ con­tribut­ing to the over­all health of their com­mu­ni­ties.

“In pre­sent­ing these events, be they for mu­sic, busi­ness, agri­cul­ture or what­ever, pas­sion­ate peo­ple are pro­vid­ing a key piece of a re­gional de­vel­op­ment jig­saw puz­zle,” he said.

“These events only hap­pen when lo­cal peo­ple get to­gether and put in their own time, ef­fort and money for the ben­e­fit of the greater com­mu­nity.

“It’s cre­at­ing an eco­nomic wave to the ben­e­fit of every­one and ul­ti­mately cre­ates jobs.” Mr Ben­jamin, Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Vic­to­ria Grampians re­gion chair­man, made the com­ments in the wake of events such as Wim­mera Ma­chin­ery Field Days, Hor­sham Fish­ing Com­pe­ti­tion, Grampians Mu­sic and Pitch fes­ti­vals, this week­end’s Hor­sham Ir­ish and Ararat Jail­house Rock fes­ti­vals and other ap­proach­ing events such as Hor­sham Coun­try Mu­sic Fes­ti­val and War­rackn­abeal’s Y-fest.

“Events are the best way to at­tract big-spend­ing visi­tors into a com­mu­nity to boost busi­ness and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

“Vis­it­ing friends and rel­a­tives, known in the in­dus­try as VFR, ac­count for nearly 50 per­cent of visi­tors to the Wim­mera.

“These are peo­ple who have a con­nec­tion to the re­gion. Events give this group a rea­son to visit, and en­cour­ages them to visit more often.

“Events also en­cour­age our com­mu­ni­ties to in­vite their friends – three quar­ters of visi­tors come from within Vic­to­ria, mostly Mel­bourne – to come and share a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. It pro­vides an ex­cuse to visit.”

Mr Ben­jamin, based in Bal­larat but a reg­u­lar Wim­mera vis­i­tor and in charge of de­vel­op­ment stretch­ing from the edge of Mel­bourne to the South Aus­tralian bor­der, said the Wim­mera’s dis­tance from Mel­bourne was both an ad­van­tage and dis­ad­van­tage.

“It means visi­tors need to stay for mul­ti­ple days. It is our job to make sure we have enough of­fer­ings, or things for them to do, and suf­fi­cient ac­com­mo­da­tion,” he said.

Mr Ben­jamin said ex­pec­ta­tions were that the an­nual value of tourism for both Hor­sham and North­ern Grampians mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to hit $100-mil­lion by 2020.

“This is a sig­nif­i­cant source of in­come for our re­gion and ac­counts for more than 1000 jobs in just these two coun­cil ar­eas,” Mr Ben­jamin said.

“The key is to try and get a vis­i­tor to stay longer and to spend more. Events such as the Wim­mera Ma­chin­ery Field Days in­volve visi­tors com­ing for mul­ti­ple days. They fill our mo­tels and book out our restau­rants. This cre­ates long-term jobs.”

Mr Ben­jamin en­cour­aged peo­ple to con­tinue forg­ing ahead in pre­sent­ing ma­jor events and ap­plauded all in­volved.

But he added there was a need for greater co-or­di­na­tion to al­low events to ei­ther work to­gether or avoid clash­ing.

“We need to con­tin­u­ally en­cour­age peo­ple to come again and again, not just in a one-month pe­riod. There are many op­por­tu­ni­ties to get this right through re­gional gov­er­nance,” he said.

“It is very rare that some­one will drive three or four hours to do a sin­gle thing.

“I en­cour­age every­one in­volved in events to see who else they can part­ner up with. It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that we’re not iso­lated. If some­thing hap­pens in Hor­sham it could be good for Halls Gap and Ararat and vice-versa.”

Mr Ben­jamin said the $30-mil­lion Grampians Peaks Trail, stretch­ing from one end of the Grampians moun­tains to the other and a sig­na­ture pro­ject of RDA, was a pri­mary ex­am­ple of some­thing com­mu­ni­ties could lever.

“For the first time, we will have an at­trac­tion that will see large num­bers of high-spend­ing in­ter­na­tional tourists com­ing to our re­gion,” he said. “We need to think big.”

The Weekly Ad­ver­tiser is a ma­jor spon­sor of Re­lay for Life. For James’s story and re­lay team pro­files, see pages 18 to 21. Pic­ture: PAUL CARRACHER

UP FOR THE FIGHT: Thir­tyyear-old James Crute of Dadswells Bridge will take his bat­tle against can­cer to Hor­sham and Dis­trict Re­lay for Life at Dock Lake Re­serve on Fri­day and Satur­day. Mr Crute is re­cov­er­ing from tis­sue can­cer af­ter he found a lump on his ribcage last year. He will join re­lay par­tic­i­pants from across the re­gion and pro­mote a mes­sage of hope for peo­ple af­fected by the dis­ease.

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