The small towns of the Upper Ovens and Upper Kiewa Valleys include the relative major centres of Bright, Myrtleford and Mount Beauty, which offer a unique lifestyle choice in a visually rich landscape, fortified by evident past endeavours on which the alpine small towns were established. These townships continue to be interdependent: the health and prosperity of one affects all the others – socially, economically or environmentally.
While the natural and heritage characteristics of these townships contribute greatly to the region’s tourism, the remoteness of the alpine townships combined with increasing economic pressures, including rising fuel costs, present the local communities with significant challenges to ensuring their sustainability and longevity.
There is no pot of gold
There is no pot of gold, no single endeavour that is sufficiently reliable to adequately provide for the small towns of the Upper Ovens and Kiewa Valleys, and the communities of the Alpine Shire recognize that a range of initiatives must be employed to secure their sustainability in to the future.
Local knowledge has been an essential ingredient to developing Framework Plans for each of the small towns including Harrietville, Wandiligong, Porepunkah, Tawonga and Dederang. The Framework Plans provide the necessary guidance for Alpine Shire Council and the township communities to respond to the challenges – presently facing all small towns across the nation. The Framework Plans recommend a range of improvements to enhance the unique characteristics of the township supporting their liveability and tourism potential. These projects are typically subtle – including connecting pathways, street tree plantings, stone walls, planters and interpretive signage.
The Framework Plans articulate the shared aspiration of the small communities for greater self-reliance through local trade and access to services. However, the relatively small and dispersed population of Alpine Shire is potentially insufficient to achieve the necessary quantum of local trade and service activity necessary to achieve sustainability. Consequently, more investment is required to provide more jobs, more local trade and service opportunity, ultimately providing greater self reliance.
Rural and regional townships currently need to maximize the opportunities for investment to become more liveable and sustainable. However, Local Government in rural areas are typically ill-equipped to drive the changes necessary to capitalize on current and emerging investment opportunities. Additionally, Victorian State Planning Policy fails to adequately recognise issues and opportunities at the local level, subsequently limiting growth and investment potential.
Local Government and local communities must be better equipped with the appropriate skills and, more importantly, the authority to support the realization of the specific investment opportunities that are locally unique – if they are to achieve sustainability. The alternative is yet another historical relic in the rural landscape.