By Peter Seamer, VPA chief executive
From the undulating plains of the Central Goldfields to the beautiful wine region of the Yarra Valley and the majestic Surf Coast, Victoria’s regions are truly remarkable.
Families living in the regions can enjoy many fantastic lifestyle benefits, from living closer to work to immersing themselves in the joys of nature, such as bushwalking.
However, while Victoria’s regions offer an enviable way of life, unfortunately the growth of their residential populations has been slower than we would like.
In 1996, for example, 28% of Victorians lived in regional towns and cities, but these days this has reduced to 23%.
If this trajectory continues, it will put an enormous strain on Melbourne’s resources and mean that those living in the regions will miss out on the economic prosperity experienced by residents of our capital – an outcome nobody wants.
That is why the Victorian Government has established the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA), a new statutory authority charged with providing our regions with a much-needed boost.
While the Victorian Planning Authority previously focussed on planning in Melbourne and some regional areas, the VPA will now undertake planning in areas of strategic significance right across the state.
To fulfil its expanded role, the VPA has been given an additional $2.1 million by the Victorian Government to fund a specialist unit dedicated solely to the regions.
This team will help regional councils develop plans that will support economic growth, which could consist of designing new suburbs, identifying development opportunities and increasing housing. It will provide councils with grants and expertise to assist with strategic planning.
We will work closely with Regional Development Victoria, Regional Partnerships and all regional councils to ensure a coordinated approach in planning is undertaken.
I want to emphasise here that the VPA will focus its efforts on communities wanting to increase their population, and that all new projects must align with the identity of the town or city in question.
The VPA understands that regional areas are defined by their history, topography and culture, and these characteristics must be honoured in future development.
Our approach to planning uses the existing town character as the starting point for designing extensions to each area – after all, we don’t want growth to result in townships resembling an outer suburb of Melbourne.
We are sure with the right planning interventions and input from the community, our regions will thrive.
The VPA is interested in hearing directly from residents and businesses about planning interventions they think would encourage growth and greater liveability in their area. To get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo is a panorama of Wodonga, courtesy of the City of Wodonga.