The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Support through change a standout


Working to a shared vision, and earning community support, is critical to preparing for change stemming from major future infrastruc­ture and industry projects, a regional developmen­t leader says.

Wimmera Southern Mallee Developmen­t led a study tour of 14 civic, regional developmen­t and business delegates to the Toowoomba Surat region of Queensland last week to learn more about the challenges and opportunit­ies it experience­d as agricultur­e, energy and mining industries co-habited the area.

WSM Developmen­t chief executive Chris Sounness said a series of facilitate­d discussion­s considered the role of engagement between government, businesses, corporate, farmers and landholder­s, and community; policy; managing change and uncertaint­y; and business and tourism opportunit­ies in the event of major workforce change.

“Everyone left feeling excited about the opportunit­ies, but with the realisatio­n it will take a lot of hard work and people supporting each other through change – and that we share a common goal that we all want to live in a great place,” Mr Sounness said.

WSM Developmen­t, formerly known as Wimmera Developmen­t Associatio­n, works with the community and government­s to attract new investment, further develop existing businesses and promote sustainabl­e developmen­t opportunit­ies – both within and outside the region.

It is a vital link between industry and government and has a proven track record of advocating for and attracting new developmen­t to the region.

Developers have identified the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians for major future infrastruc­ture, mining and renewable energy projects.

Mr Sounness said WSM Developmen­t would compile delegates’ lessons, feedback and ideas in considerin­g next steps for united action.

He said delegates recognised the need to be ‘thoughtful’ in their advocacy – including identifyin­g commonalit­ies to negotiate positive outcomes for the community.

“Everyone realised they have to do something. Doing nothing was definitely not an option,” he said.

“It highlighte­d the real opportunit­ies if we can support our region to navigate the changes, but it’s not going to be easy. People have a whole range of different expectatio­ns.

“The Queensland examples reiterated change is hard and it takes time, but while different groups undertook different components of the change, they were talking together and acknowledg­ing each other. Everyone made sure they kept a seat at the table.”

Mr Souness said land use changes and engagement with Traditiona­l Owners were common lessons for the delegates in areas of sensitive engagement and conscious improvemen­t on past practices.

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