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Mayoral Column 11 January 2016

Released on 11 January 2016

Looking forward to the year ahead

As I sit down to write my first column for the year after enjoying time out with family and friends, it strikes me how much we have to look forward to in 2016, whichever corner of the Shire you reside.

With work progressing well on our streetscape redevelopment in Wedderburn, Council will be focusing on continuing to attract funding to ensure all streetscapes within the Shire are up to scratch.

During our December Council meeting we discussed the next steps of this process, with Pyramid Hill Streetscape at the forefront of future plans.

With work remaining on track for the Inglewood Hall refurbishment to be completed by the middle of the year, residents there are looking forward to community events in a fabulously fresh space.

Meanwhile, the neighbouring Bridgewater community is eagerly looking towards plans for a $400,000 project designed to link the main street of Bridgewater with the Loddon River.

I’ll be watching with great interest as Sports Focus delivers one-on-one and small group training sessions with sporting clubs throughout the Shire.

This program will help ensure our clubs remain vibrant and adaptive to change so the young, and not so young among us, can make the most of our fantastic sports grounds and new facilities such as the recently opened Wedderburn multi-purpose netball tennis court.

In Boort I’m looking forward to seeing Aboriginal Eco Tours take off in the next few months as this has been a long-held objective of Loddon Shire’s Tourism Strategy and Nature Tourism Plan.

While the extended dry period continues to prove challenging, relief is also in sight for our farming families, with stage one of the South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project being fast tracked to improve water security.

I’m confident the year ahead will be one full of promise and achievement for our community, and I look forward to working alongside my fellow Councillors, community groups and interested individuals to further strengthen Loddon Shire.

What will help us get through the drought?

Now is the time to speak up.

The state government wants to hear from drought affected communities in order to know how to help them.

This follows the announcement of a drought package in November.

An online forum has been established to provide an opportunity for communities to have a say in how to best allocate the $10 million drought response fund to support affected farmers, their families and communities.

The state government forum allows you to ask a question, submit comments or vote on other people’s ideas.

I would strongly encourage members of our farming communities here in Loddon Shire to take the opportunity to carefully consider their needs and submit feedback.

After all it’s our farmers, businesses and communities who are best placed to know what measures will help Loddon Shire get through the drought.

To speak out about what you, and your community here in Loddon Shire need, go to http://www.oursay.org/victoriandrought.

The closing date for feedback is 31 January.

Loddon captures visitors’ imagination

If you’ve been enjoying the holiday period close to home this year, chances are you’ll have met a few tourists along the way.

It’s been pleasing to talk to Loddon Visitor Information Centre staff and volunteers about the steady flow of people coming through their doors during December, with the run showing little sign of easing.

Statistics for December reveal Loddon had 11 international visitors, 40 interstate, 43 from Melbourne and 91 from other regional Victorian centres.

Interestingly the number of international visitors more than doubles the number dropping into the centre at the same time the previous year, and included tourists from Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Thailand, the UK and USA.

Regardless of where people have travelled from, they appear to have been pleasantly surprised by how much there is to see and do within the Shire.

Many have been “grey nomads” in the 40s to 50s age group, who have decided to stop longer than initially intended, or plan a return trip, if they were stopping by on their way to another town.

Of those who did stay, overnight camping at Hard Hill Tourist Reserve in Wedderburn proved a popular option, with 99 per cent giving a voluntary donation to our centre and many enjoying a spot of gold prospecting along the way.

Living in Boort, I’ve also seen scores or locals and visitors enjoying their water sports.

It’ll be interesting to talk to both the Boort and Bridgewater Caravan Park operators towards the end of the summer season, as I have an inkling they’re experiencing a bumper season!

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