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Water a major asset to region – report

An ongoing report has again estimated the annual socio-economic value of recreational and environmental water to the region at close to $30-million.

The report for 2019-2020, based on 27 river, weir pools and lakes across the Wimmera and southern Mallee, showed assets contributed $28.491-million to the economy.

It showed the figure was down 15.41 percent on the 2018-2019 figure, but acknowledged the effect of lower water levels than the previous year and increased blue-green algae outbreaks significantly impacting visitation.

It also noted the study period was subject to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, which forced the cancellation of many regional attractions and also a reduced number of visitors.

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Details were in the fourth and final report into the Social and Economic Value of Recreational and Water Values in the Wimmera Southern Mallee.

Wimmera Development Association led the study with project partners Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, GWMWater  and Wimmera and southern Mallee municipal councils.

Other key findings from the past 12 months estimated more than 280,000 people visited the 27 survey waterways, with more than 175,000 visitor nights.

Visitor-breakdown figures revealed 41.5 percent were Wimmera and southern Mallee residents, 33.6 percent were from other Victorian country regions, 14.7 percent from Melbourne and 6.7 percent from South Australia. 

Visits included a high rate for both active and passive activity.

The report also highlighted the important contribution recreation and environmental water had on regional centres, ‘providing enhanced amenity and a critical outlet for physical and mental relaxation, improving the overall health and wellbeing of residents and visitors’.

Estimates were that health benefits from Wimmera and southern Mallee residents and Victorians participating at the selected sites  – including physical and mental – totalled $4,157,160.

Wimmera Development Association project officer Mark Fletcher said the study had given stakeholders an enhanced understanding of the economic and social contribution of these facilities and the important part they played in regional communities. 

“Many groups involved have used these reports to assist with grant submissions for infrastructure development,” he said.

“Key regional agencies have also used these reports for future planning of water use and support to local communities.

“This year’s study will be followed by an additional report showing comparisons across the four year studies and highlight water-quality events, impacts of new events and additional opportunities for infrastructure development and events at key locations.”

Mr Fletcher said the association had worked with Wayne Street from Street Ryan and Associates on the project, engaging with management committees, sporting clubs and others likely to have an involvement in recreational water activity. 

He said the State Government’s Water for Victoria program had provided the majority of funding for the project via Wimmera Catchment Management Authority.

The entire September 23, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!