While Ballarat grows rapidly to its west, there are also good opportunities to develop to the city’s east, which has excellent access to road and rail infrastructure and is closer to Melbourne.
The townships of Bungaree and Wallace, around 15kms east of Ballarat’s CBD, already have many of the basics needed to attract growth with good sport and recreation facilities and a primary school. Wallace is one of the few small towns in the region with natural gas.
Bungaree and Wallace are well located to provide opportunities for increased housing choice and the affordability that comes with living in a regional/peri urban area.
Shorter travel times to and from the area also make these towns an attractive place to live. There is a half-hour time saving for a return trip to Melbourne and the train station at Ballan is just 15 minutes away.
Importantly, Bungaree and Wallace have been earmarked for future growth in both the Central Highlands Regional Growth Plan and Moorabool Small Towns and Settlements Strategy.
But a key ingredient is missing.
Despite a history dating back to the 1880s, the towns are still reliant on septic tanks that limit development opportunities.
Council has long advocated for the towns to be connected to a sewer system. We have been actively working with Central Highlands Water to see how best to make this a priority for the next 5 years.
There are several ways for sewer projects to be funded, including contributions from landowners and water authorities. Moorabool Shire Council has agreed to provide $1M towards this project, which has an estimated cost of up to $10M.
Council is encouraging the Victorian Government to look at the role it can play in ensuring these townships, and others like them, grow and prosper into the future. There is a strong economic argument to enable sewer connections to happen, with the resulting development creating jobs and local expenditure increases. In Wallace and Bungaree, we predict that the sewer project could result in up to 3,500 new residents moving into the area.
There will also be opportunities for new start-up businesses and for existing ones to grow. For example, plans to expand Kryal Castle could have benefited significantly from the sewer project. Unfortunately, it could not come soon enough for them and they have been forced to find alternative arrangements. Hopefully, though, further expansion plans will be possible in the future if the sewer project goes ahead.
I am a strong believer that one of the best ways to enable development in a sustainable way, that enhances liveability, is to share growth across smaller towns, rather than concentrating it in particular areas.
There is a good opportunity here for government, water authorities, councils and the community to work constructively to grow Victoria’s small towns.
Together, let us ensure that places like Bungaree and Wallace can reach their full potential and that opportunities for economic growth are encouraged through funding support from all levels of government.