Region alive, active
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.”
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.