Council reviews challenges and opportunities for towns in municipality

Region - Ararat Rural City Council has adopted a report which reviews the future challenges and opportunities facing the township of Ararat and small towns in the municipality.

The Ararat Sustainable Growth Future project was funded by Council in the 2010-2011 budgets to undertake a Municipal Strategic Statement Review and Regional Development Victoria grant to include a commercial, industrial and retail assessment.

It provides an overview of the demographic and economic changes occurring across the municipality and identifies the key issues and opportunities to its future growth.

The project also identified the relative economic strength of Ararat in agriculture, public administration and safety, manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade but also identified the key drivers of change. These demographic and economic shifts will provide opportunities for many industries of economic growth in areas such as:

The health sector in Ararat is a major employer. With the continued ageing of Victoria's population, and increasing that demand for health services, the municipality is well positioned as a regional centre for health services.

Manufacturing has remained strong over the past decade employing 13 per cent of the population. During the same period the manufacturing across Victoria has declined 2.1 per cent. Although the future manufacturing remains uncertain due to macro-economic shifts there is an opportunity to expand specialist and advanced manufacturing.

Tourism is an important contributor to the regional economy and as the gateway to the Grampians National Park Ararat is well positioned to take advantage of this visitation with natural assets, wineries and heritage values associated with municipality.

Ararat Rural City Council manager of planning and development Joel Hastings said the report outlines issues and opportunities facing the municipality and it presents an exciting and sustainable future for Ararat providing a vision for the municipality.

This vision states:

Ararat Rural City will offer a high quality lifestyle and diverse economy that support long term sustainable population growth, economic prosperity and wellbeing.

The outstanding natural, landscape and cultural heritage assets on offer, combined with excellent education, health and community services, will attract specialist workers, retirees, 'tree changers', and commuters.

Its strategic location on national highway and rail freight networks, and gateway role for the Grampians tourism and wine region, will provide a foundation for growth in sectors as diverse as agriculture, manufacturing, transport, renewable energy, tourism and accommodation.

Ararat will continue to serve as a major regional service hub and accommodate the majority of residential and business growth. Lake Bolac and Willaura will continue to act as municipal service centres due their existing physical and social infrastructure, including reticulated sewerage.

Growth will also be encouraged in Moyston, Pomonal and Elmhurst reflecting their proximity to Ararat, natural assets and ability to offer a high quality rural residential lifestyle.

Other settlements in the network will experience organic growth consistent with their environmental capacity and ability to mitigate hazards, including bushfire.

"This vision provides a bright outlook for the municipality and will enable it to face the future challenges and take advantage of it strengths," Mr Hastings said.

The final report also made a number of key recommendations to encourage the sustainable growth and land use for the Ararat township, which relates to the township residential, rural residential, retail/commercial, bulky goods, industrial and tourism.

Mr Hastings said three new residential zones have been introduced by the Minister for Planning, including the Residential Growth Zone, General Residential Zone and Neighbourhood Residential Zone and Council has until mid 2014 to determine how it will apply them.

These zones are intended to provide clear direction to residential and developers about where change is likely to occur.

The strategy also seeks to provide, support and strengthen the municipality's small townships based on their capacity and role.

Some of the points in the strategy for each town include:

Lake Bolac:

Rezone the existing Township Zone and Farming Zone to the north-east of the township to Industrial 3 Zone to better reflect its existing industrial use and subdivision pattern. The purpose of the Industrial 3 Zone is to provide for industries and associated uses that do not affect the safety and amenity of adjacent, more sensitive land uses.

Willaura:

Enhance and soften the visual appearance of Willaura through streetscape greening initiatives, particularly along Main Street and Delacombe Way.

Pomonal:

Rezone land surrounding the major intersection of Pomonal from Rural Living to Township Zone to create a defined centre for the town and a focus for future retail/commercial activity, in line with the recommendations of the Stawell - Ararat - Halls Gap Triangle Rural Zone Review (2012).

Moyston:

Provide further opportunities for a range of low density residential and rural living residential developments within convenient access to the core community facilities.

Elmhurst:

Rezone the tree/creek corridor running from Green Street to the Golf Course from Township Zone to Public Conservation and Resource Zone to better reflect the use and intent of the land.

Buangor:

Encourage a wider range of businesses, services and activities that take advantage of Buangor's heritage assets, nearby wineries and proximity to Mount Buangor and Mt Langi Ghiran.

"The Ararat Sustainable Growth Future Strategy provides a high level strategic overview of the municipality and the economic and demographic changes, land supply and demand issues facing the municipality," Mr Hastings said.

"The strategy clearly identifies the key projects and land use issues which will drive change in the future and provides the guidance necessary to update the Ararat Planning Scheme to ensure it is effective and relevant to support growth and future decision making."

In receiving the report Ararat Rural City Councillor Fay Hull said it was an important piece of work that had been ongoing for quite some time.

"It involves the future of our municipality's strategic planning," she said.

"It's good to see that it has finally got to this stage and I look forward to the next stages."

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