I take up the Swan Hill Rural City Council Mayor role at a time of mixed feeling for our region.
The stonefruit season is starting again, and is looking positive. It has brought new people to the district as a labour source for harvest and packing, and the roads are busy as produce is trucked out. Grain growers who managed to score some isolated rain are harvesting their crops, but others have had to cut for hay, or worse. These farmers, and as a result our community, are feeling the pinch.
But having been born, grown up and educated in Swan Hill, I know we are a strong and resilient community and that we have a bright future ahead.
Our region is expanding in many areas, with new industry arriving and horticultural operations expanding.
We have real estate agents saying they have no rental listings on their books, our tradies are busy and there is a waiting list to get some of their services.
We have seen some great days at the drag strip recently, with 270 cars of all types here, and big crowds from around Australia offering excellent exposure for the new track. It can only get bigger and better.
I would also like to highlight the link between creativity and economic development, and the potential we have to bring tourists to our outlying towns. On the weekend,
I attended the Mick Cullin photo exhibition at Ultima Hall – it was so well received. Lots of locals and others returned to Ultima to see the exhibition and meet with old friends. It was a perfect example of how we can activate our small towns through the arts, and bring visitors in.
There are also opportunities to be explored for small business right around our municipality. Like all areas – city and country – we have vacant shops in our CBDs. Retailers are looking into different ways of marketing and selling, and as a Council we play a role by offering training, workshops and advice to help local businesses with their goals.
And getting back to economic development in our outlying towns, there are also now opportunities for people to settle into these areas and run businesses, or operate via the internet, equally as well as they might in a city area.
There are certainly challenges out there for our city and for our rural communities, challenges that we as a Council need to address. I don’t shy away from those. But if we can look at all the positives and potential around us, we can see that we have a bright future.
Please stay in touch with Councillors, and if you can see any opportunity to improve our city and region, talk to us.