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Develop regional Victoria

Victoria’s regions contain a diversity of experience, strengths, opportunities and challenges. From Gippsland to the Mallee, and Great South Coast to Ovens Murray, communities are adapting to uncertainty and an accelerating pace of change.

Transitioning local economies, population fluctuation, demographic changes, increasing urbanisation and climate change affect diverse communities differently, across and within regions. Drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused major disruptions.

Each region of Victoria has its own unique character and diverse needs, and solutions must suit local conditions and be flexible

For example, more people moved to regional areas during the COVID19 pandemic, while migration from Melbourne increased by a factor of eight in the September 2020 quarter compared with the previous year.1 Each region is responding to these shared drivers of change in unique ways.

In developing this strategy, Infrastructure Victoria has built a deeper understanding of regional infrastructure needs and their impacts. Our work demonstrates the unique character of each district, and the diversity of their experiences, strengths, opportunities and challenges. We have also found that many infrastructure needs are shared. Consistent and recurring themes include inadequate digital connectivity, improvements needed for freight, public transport and the condition of roads, gaps in basic infrastructure, inadequate access to affordable housing, and the need for fit for purpose health and community facilities.

Regional Victoria’s infrastructure needs are very different to Melbourne’s. Solutions must suit local conditions and be flexible enough to cater for different communities within and across the regions — including fast-growing regional cities, peri-urban areas, small towns and rural communities. They must also consider the different demographics of different places. For example, the regions have higher proportions of Aboriginal Victorians and older people.

Infrastructure can boost economic development and strengthen the resilience of economies and communities.

Regional development is more than simply generating construction activity.

It can encourage economic growth by removing barriers to industry investment, support job creation and encourage businesses to expand. Infrastructure can also support the needs of regional communities, helping people adapt to change, enhancing their quality of life, and lessening the socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by some of Victoria’s most vulnerable communities. Regional communities face complex, intertwined opportunities and challenges. Infrastructure Victoria has worked with regional stakeholders to determine ways to better maintain, manage and develop infrastructure. We have used an evidence-based approach to identify which investments deliver better economic and social outcomes for regional Victorians.

We have focused on infrastructure investments which build on a region’s competitive strengths to help drive economic growth, or which improve local economic, human and social capital assets to reduce disadvantage.

Regional Victoria is home to relatively dispersed populations with large distances between them. This means these communities cannot always sustain the same range and diversity of services as metropolitan areas. This makes connectivity a priority for infrastructure – linking businesses to markets, transferring information and knowledge, and connecting people to services and opportunities. Good infrastructure can support innovative solutions to connect people to jobs, goods and services, and each other. Equally, it can improve connections between businesses, producers and customers, lifting productivity and enable regional industries to access domestic and global markets.

Insight: Building a better understanding of regional infrastructure

In developing this strategy, Infrastructure Victoria committed to examining regional infrastructure needs more closely to develop stronger evidence that supports better regional infrastructure planning and investment.

We undertook a three-year process that involved research, data gathering, consultation and engagement to produce our Regional Infrastructure Needs reports. These explored the economic, social and environmental strengths and challenges of Victoria’s nine regions: Barwon, Central Highlands, Gippsland, Goulburn, Great South Coast, Loddon Campaspe, Mallee, Ovens Murray, and Wimmera Southern Mallee.

As part of our consultation we hosted stakeholder workshops in each region. We talked with over 200 regional representatives, including participants from Regional Partnerships, councils, regional-based government agencies, regional and community organisations, and representatives from business, health and education providers. We released individual economic, social and environmental profiles for each region. We also produced an inter-regional report presenting a large suite of data to form a comprehensive view of regional Victoria. As part of the strategy consultation, more than 470 participants attended at least one of 34 online events including focus groups, workshops, roundtables, sector dialogues and forums. The regional roundtables had the highest number of participants with 192 people attending one of nine sessions.2 We received many submissions from stakeholders in regional Victoria. This extensive regional perspective documented in detail each region’s economic, social and environmental strengths and challenges. Following this, we analysed specific infrastructure investments that could benefit regional Victoria. Our Infrastructure Priorities for the Regions research developed two frameworks specifically to identify and assess regional infrastructure priorities: one to build on regions’ comparative strengths, and one to address regional disadvantage. An expert panel and an advisory group informed the development of the frameworks. We used the frameworks to select infrastructure solutions to meet regional needs. We undertook research, data analysis, and drew upon local knowledge – calling for submissions for infrastructure solutions that addressed comparative advantage or disadvantage in each region. These resources are available at infrastructurevictoria.com.au, and include:

  • A detailed report on infrastructure priorities for Victoria’s regions
  • Individual regional profiles identifying infrastructure needs
  • An inter-regional assessment reflecting common needs across regional Victoria
  • Individual industry profiles for each region
  • Regional disadvantage fact sheets for each region
  • The complementary frameworks for assessing regional comparative advantage and addressing regional disadvantage
  • A background paper on the role of infrastructure in addressing regional disadvantage.

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