PUGRC Economic Development Strategy
The Peri Urban Group of Rural Councils (PUGRC) Economic Development Strategy (EDS) is the first of its kind. It represents a new paradigm in economic development. where it has used a comparative statewide analysis that includes all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) to create a holistic or three-dimensional view of the economic, social and environmental performance of the PUGRC region. This unique holistic view enables the region’s issues, shortcomings and opportunities in these three key areas to be highlighted to the state and federal governments.
The EDS highlights the region’s urgent need for sustained job growth, new educational and training capabilities, better road and rail links and improved health facilities. It also advocates for additional fiscal spending in our region to support consumer consumption levels to restart the industries that have been impacted by COVID-19 such as tourism, retail and construction. The action items outlined in this EDS for which support from the Victorian and federal governments is being sought, have been derived from the gap analysis of the economic, social and environmental performance of the region, as outlined using the UNSDG data framework, and forms the basis of our EDS.
The PUGRC is the second-fastest growing rural region in Victoria and is expected to grow by a further 50% (or more than 100,000 new residents) by 2036. This EDS provides the holistic-wide view necessary to identify the key areas that need attention so that the PUGRC can catch up to other Victorian council regions and overcome the hurdles that currently constrain its ability to ensure its growing towns and communities can be great places to live, work and play in the future.
Peri Urban Policy Statement
The peri urban region is forecast to grow by an average of 45.3% to 2031. The Peri Urban region contains four of the top five fastest growing regional Shires in the State. In contrast the Regional Cities , who are the focus of significant funding, support and policy settings will grow at just 26.7% (VIF 2016).
The Peri Urban communities will also carry much of the brunt of the growth from the Growth Areas and Regional Cities due to residents from neighbouring Shires utilising the Peri Urban facilities rather than overcrowded recreation facilities and child care centres in their own centres.
Across much of the peri urban region, the impacts of growth, lack of resources and forward planning are evident now and will become contentious local issues into the future as communities continue to grow and change.
As one of Victoria’s fastest growing and dynamic regions, the peri urban region requires planning foundations which ensure that this region grows in the right manner and that vital health, food and lifestyle assets are protected into the future. The necessity of the Policy is reflected in the Regional Growth Plans for each region.
This policy will assist the region to protect vital agricultural lands, tourism assets and to manage sustainable population growth on Melbourne’s doorstep.
The Peri Urban Policy Statement is a key priority for this group of Councils and is contained in many of the Regional Growth Plans for the region.
Strengthening and supporting agriculture is a key priority for the Peri Urban Group of Regional Councils. The peri urban region is home to 10% of Victoria’s agriculture production and produces 17% of the State’s produce and generates 5,268 jobs in the region. The Victorian peri urban region is ideally placed to further develop and capitalise on the export market and domestic trends for farm gate sales, pick your own and artisan foods.
The agriculture industry and the available agricultural lands are under increasing pressure from the impacts of population growth, including the expansion of residential and lifestyle properties into the region, transport congestion, conflicts between land uses and the rising cost of land.
The Peri Urban Group of Rural Councils has formed a Working Group to consider the broad range of pressures affecting the agriculture industries and to identify appropriate strategic interventions. The result of this work is the development of a Peri Urban Agriculture. Discussion Paper. June 2017 v2. The Discussion paper was released in early 2017 for stakeholder feedback and input. Thirteen submissions were received and incorporated into the revised Discussion Paper.
Growing Suburbs Funding
The Growing Suburbs fund provides $50 million per year to fund critical infrastructure in fast growing areas. The fund is currently limited to the ten identified ‘Growth Area Councils’.
The fast growing areas of the Peri Urban region are experiencing significant population growth due their proximity to the Growth Areas and Melbourne, and the main regional cities of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The population growth in the Growth Areas is pushing significant additional population growth into our nearby towns and driving the growth in demand for access to services and facilities by local residents and others from neighbouring Shires. The Peri urban Shires require urgent access to funding to assist with critical growth infrastructure.
Current status: On the 3rd of June 2020 the Peri Urban Group of Rural Councils was admitted into the Growing Suburbs Fund, The Minister for Local Government Hon Shaun Leane MP announced on the 3rd of September 2020, that the PUGRC council members received $5.9 million in funding from the Andrews Labor Government’s $25 million fund for this year.
The Foodprint Melbourne project investigated Melbourne’s food system and the potential environmental, economic and social benefits of sourcing more of Melbourne’s food from regional Victoria, with a particular focus on the city’s peri-urban region.
Foodprint Melbourne was a collaboration between the Victorian Eco-Innovation Laboratory (at the University of Melbourne) and the Food Alliance (at Deakin University). The project was funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. Foodprint Melbourne was a 2-year project (February 2015 – December 2016) that built on the Know Your Foodbowl research into Melbourne’s peri-urban food production.
The Peri Urban Group of Rural Councils was pleased to be involved with this exciting project. Read more.
Infrastructure and Service Planning
The Councils of the Victorian peri urban region are on average managing municipalities that are four times the size of the Regional Cities of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, faster rates of population growth and yet have budgets that are just one quarter of the size. The region has been identified by Government for significant population growth outside of the Melbourne growth boundary and many areas are witnessing rapid population expansion to almost double the size by 2031. There are other areas which are facing declining populations but are well placed and well serviced to accommodate increased populations. These areas also require appropriate infrastructure to attract and support increased populations.
The challenge for this region is to ensure that population change is managed in the right way for the existing and new residents and that appropriate growth infrastructure and services are delivered as required and not at the expense of day to day infrastructure and services.
The Councils of the Victorian peri urban region require Government support to develop infrastructure plans and settlement plans to guide the future development of this region and of each Shire. These plans are crucial to the future of this region and will enable sustainable population growth while protecting environmental assets, agricultural lands and local character.
The next 16 years will see rapid population expansion across the peri urban region, resulting in either adhoc and unplanned developments that are not integrated into the existing fabric of the area and dramatically reduce the rural character of the region OR new planned, communities and expanded communities, through infill opportunities, that are supported by appropriate infrastructure and services within a productive rural landscape.
Improved Mobile & Internet Access
The Victorian Peri Urban region is located within the commuter belt for Melbourne and Geelong and more than 38,000 commute to work outside of the region each day. The number of people commuting is forecast to rise to more than 58,000 by 2031, without increased local employment and the technology to support increased local employment.
Faster internet speeds and mobile coverage are crucial to enabling this region to grow as a self sustaining economy and not merely “Melbourne’s bedroom” for exhausted commuters and the families they leave behind each day.
The Price Waterhouse Coopers report of 2008 forecast that broadband would result in between 1 to 2% increase in GDP per annum and a 1% increase in productivity for Australian households and businesses. ACMA in thei 2014 report have revealed that Australian households on average have consumed $652 per person in additional goods and services with broadband.
Faster internet speeds and mobile connectivity will have a substantial impact on the economy and the livability of the peri urban region of Victoria and are a key priority for this group of Councils.