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03 August 2022
By Jessica Grimble
A Wimmera development leader says attracting renewable energy infrastructure projects is critical to the future prosperity of the region.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said companies were unable to invest billions of dollars of potential in the Wimmera and southern Mallee because of a chronic lack of infrastructure to deliver their proposals.
He said this, in turn, meant the region was missing opportunities to increase its regional development, economic, educational and social outcomes that a larger population base and improved infrastructure opportunities could pose.
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Mr Sounness, speaking at the Murra Warra Wind Farm grants fund announcement last week, used the project as an example of what large-scale projects and infrastructure could offer the region.
The wind farm inducted more than 2000 people during its four-year build. About 180 people were on-site each day at the peak of the works.
Economic modelling projects a benefit of more than $100-million to the region throughout the project, including jobs and spending.
“As a community and as a region, we need to think about why RES, the management company for the Murra Warra Wind Farm, is here and why there aren’t a lot of other wind farms in the region,” Mr Sounness said.
“Despite the interest, we don’t have the infrastructure to support proposals for many wind farms and solar energy projects.
“As a nation and as a society, we really need to think about net zero and how we can lower our emissions, and solar and wind energy are key to that.
“But at the moment, one of the best places in Australia to generate that energy – the Wimmera and southern Mallee – is not connected to the rest of Australia and the rest of the world because transmission lines have not been built.”
Mr Sounness said people and properties were undoubtedly impacted by infrastructure projects, such as transmission line or wind farm projects, but stressed the opportunities for the wider region were far-reaching.
“There is $16-billion worth of investment that could occur if we have transmission lines built in our region,” he said.
“Does that mean we have jobs forever? No. But there will be a heap of jobs for skilled people in our region, which will allow it to grow.”
Mr Sounness said the region was disadvantaged in many ways.
He said the region was well above the state average in relation to welfare support.
While Victoria has more children continuing school after year-10 compared with the rest of Australia, there are high rates of Wimmera and southern Mallee students leaving school at this stage.
The region has the lowest rate of home internet use anywhere in the state, and four of its shires were ranked in the bottom-10 statewide.
“All of these are indicators of a region where, for a period of time, there were less opportunities for families to get ahead,” Mr Sounness said.
“In the Mallee electorate, 70 percent of our population is within the 30 percent poorest in Australia – because often we don’t have the educational and regional development opportunities available to us.
“Investment in transformational infrastructure projects such as transmission lines is a key part of ensuring our families have the same opportunities to grow and access a range of exciting career choices and job opportunities as others.”
Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.
The entire August 3, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!