Leaders look forward to New Year

ARARAT - With 2013 all but over, attention turns to 2014 and across Ararat the signals are positive that the year ahead will see the town grow even further.

Ararat will receive nationwide exposure on a weekly basis through the airing of The Biggest Loser and with the completion of the Hopkins Correction Centre late in the year the town will have established itself as a strong employment base.

Ararat Rural City Council Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper said Ararat has a lot to look forward too in the next 12 months.

"I have a sense of optimism because we've received a fair kicking in recent years, so I look on the year ahead with a degree of optimism," he said.

"Even broader outside of Ararat with the advent of The Biggest Loser profile I would expect much higher visitation.

"In addition to that I hope the community looks at the contestants participation with pride and it gets people off their backside (including myself) so that we ultimately have a much healthier community."

Cr Hooper said the Save Our Pool committees endorsement as Committee of Management status of the Ararat Outdoor Olympic Swimming Pool was one example of how people in the Ararat community had got together to do things for the community.

"The committee know it's a huge challenge and the people involved know how big that challenge is, but the balls in their court, and council will support them as much as we can," he said.

"Ararat has a history of getting behind each other and doing marvellous things. The Biggest Loser isn't just about the 14 people on the show, but the 526 that participated in the pebble challenge."

Cr Hooper said Ararat has a host of employment opportunities, with the prison expansions at both Hopkins and Langi Kal Kal providing stable, permanent and well paid positions.

"As a council I want to assure everybody we are working our backsides off, we are looking at every possible opportunity, working in partnership with organisations to maximise the benefits that come our way.

"It is important to remember that this isn't just about the Ararat municipality, but our country cousins are always at the forefront of our mind as well."

Cr Hooper said people will be able to see the results with the upgrade of walking paths at Alexandra Lake and the completion of stage one of the Alexandra Oval Community and Recreation Centre in September.

Ararat Regional Business Association president, Andrew Burger said an increasing population would be key in the year ahead.

He said the Hopkins Correction Centre Development is an example of where more people have been brought to town.

"Our challenge is to retain employment opportunities in our rural city. While there have been tough economic times world-wide, Australia has been better off than most other countries," he said.

"Our purpose is to sound the message of businesses and make them aware of the advantages and opportunities."

Mr Burger said one of the ways businesses can improve and expand their reach is to adapt to the move to online sales.

"All businesses need to have a website and be computer savvy. We'll be offering free seminars next year with functional computer training for businesses that are interested," he said.

"Businesses need to be in tune to customers needs, internet and technology has changed retail forever."

Mr Burger encouraged the community to adopt a dedicated work ethic to grow the economy.

"We have a buoyant housing market, low cash rate of 2.5 percent that has been filtering through the economy, so should we not be doing any better?"

Cr Hooper said one thing that does strike him as an area that could see improvement is the level of volunteering and involvement by young people in the community.

"One of the great joys as Mayor is you get to go out and see what's happening, meet a lot of people involved in volunteer organisations including Country Fire Authority (CFA) etc. There are thousands of people involved but not recognised as well as we ought too.

"One thing I do notice is that it's the same people year after year. It is time young people stood up and put a little back in, whether it be to committees, boards or sporting clubs because we can't rely on the same people forever.

"So if you have an interest and a little bit of spare time, please make the effort and get involved, it is something we can be very proud of as a community," he said

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