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04 December 2019
We watch with more than passing interest to see whether predictions of major socio-economic changes predicted for western Victoria in the near future become reality.
If there is anything rare and unusual in our part of the world, it is significant change based on new large-scale projects and a subsequent influx of people.
It’s been more than a while since we’ve been able to report significant population growth in the Wimmera and southern Mallee.
Yet that is the scenario some development forecasters are predicting for our part of a state if we get a planning equation surrounding mining, renewable-energy and agricultural value-adding right.
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Broad scepticism that the Wimmera, Grampians fringe and southern Mallee can, overall, be anything more than broadacre grow-and-send agricultural region with some tag-along tourism is understandable.
Many of us have grown up in the region in an economic environment seemingly hot-wired to the seasonal success or failure of district broadacre farms and insulated from any other notion.
What else is there?
The truth is, of course, that growing raw product on mass for export for someone else to process represents only one string to the bow of regional potential.
History has taught us in no uncertain terms that communities placing their overall survival on solitary avenues of wealth are at risk of ultimately coming unstuck.
It is something of which we all, let alone our leaders, are usually acutely aware.
In the Wimmera, we must look beyond always hanging our hats on the ebbs and flows of agriculture and explore economic and development diversity.
That doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Agriculture is a massive economic driver in our region and its health, vitality and ability to move forward will always be part of the backbone of the diversity picture.
But it’s important we adopt high-end creative thinking and maintain a value-adding philosophy, where industries either come together or work side-by-side to ensure we don’t sell ourselves short and miss any boat offering development potential.
Reaching for potentially landscape-changing opportunities has its risks.
Whatever unfolds, we must demand we have all necessary checks and balances in place to ensure the region stays environmentally, socially and culturally friendly and healthy.
We still don’t know whether regional growth predictions will become reality or are simply speculative if not fanciful confidence builders for communities crying out for some legitimate oomph.
The crystal ball remains relatively cloudy and we need more clarifying light to break through the haze.
The entire December 4, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!