Opinion

The decade of influence that has been worthy of celebration

By Riverine Herald

AS COMMITTEE for Echuca Moama (C4EM) enters its 10th year it is an ideal opportunity to reflect on some of the successes of recent times as well as consider what we see as being the major challenges into the future.

It’s fair to say the last 10 years have seen an enormous investment in infrastructure in our twin towns.

A new hospital, new facilities for our police, fire fighters, ambulance personnel, a new school to name just a few. Obviously C4EM haven’t been solely responsible for any of these much needed projects however we have played a role in ensuring the decision makers were well informed of the community’s needs and expectations.

At last year’s Annual General Meeting we launched our new five-year 2018-23 Strategy. It offered greater clarity on our vision, purpose, platforms and projects. Over the past year we have gone to great lengths to fill the Strategy with the projects that we are currently active in, ones that we will keep watch on and others that will become more prevalent into the future. By using our project management tool, each project has been listed under one of our core pillars of Economic Growth, Enabling Infrastructure or Liveability.

Each project has its own project definition (a purpose) as well as being allocated a lead advocate from our board, and a set of key stakeholders for activation and collaboration.

The board was unanimous in adopting the projects and is committed to supporting and delivering the activities within.

In other news, this year delivered another significant milestone for the Echuca-Moama community and one in which C4EM had a major influence. A $91million commitment to the Bendigo-Echuca Rail Line Upgrade was confirmed by the Victorian State Government in June 2018. With funds swinging as a result from the 99-year lease of the port at Port Melbourne, and we hear quite possibly could have been absorbed into the many and varied Melbourne light rail projects currently underway, C4EM met regularly with the State Minister for Transport the Hon. Jacinta Allan to ensure that it was duly noted that not only is the current infrastructure sub-standard and second rate, we also kept delivering the insights to opportunities that a rail upgrade would deliver including the provision of faster travel that would invite more users which would ultimately lead to increasing the frequency of the trains creating further value for the investment.

This greater connectivity to both Bendigo and Melbourne can enable increased opportunity for employment; but not only commuting to the south, however also attracting more people to the north. This point has been studied closely in Bendigo by LaTrobe University and statistics show that more people get off at Bendigo than do get on to go to Melbourne. They come from the areas and townships surrounding Bendigo. Naturally for Echuca Moama, it also adds to a greater sense of liveability, increases investor confidence in helping to secure a skilled and professional workforce, can help attract tourists (particularly those who might wish to bring their bike on the train to ride one of the many future planned cycling tracks and trails in the area or attend one of the many festivals and events), and, in the long term will now provide an almost direct rail link to the Tullamarine International Airport should the proposed Sunshine Exchange/Melbourne City Rail Link be developed. We were proud to be a lead advocate for our community.

Naturally we ran our event schedule and delivered two events with the strong support of the Moama Bowling Club; the first being an agribusiness conference titled ‘Horizon360’ exploring the future of agribusiness, and most recently our ‘Connected’ conference bringing all stakeholders together in the interests of infrastructure projects relating to all things relating to ‘roads, rails, tracks and trails’. The insights from both events were highly regarded however the networking outcomes have already yielded progressive meetings with actions and future projects being tabled.

We also hosted round tables and facilitated member meetings with the Victorian Red Tape Commissioner numerous times to highlight local issues relating to government policy and what they can do to make it easier to achieve progress. Whilst we had his ear, we also advocated strongly for the placement of a Victorian Cross Border Commissioner to match that of the existing New South Wales Commissioner; it’s only fitting really if there is going to be any dialogue about addressing and finding solutions for cross-border issues. We, like many others along the river, thought it only fitting that the now confirmed, future Cross Border Commissioner, be housed in a cross-border twin-township location to experience the issues first hand, and of course we think Echuca should be the location in this instance.

Critically C4EM also supported the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Forum and jointly advocated for the retention of the 450 gigalitres of up-water to remain within the irrigation system.

Last year we co-funded a study by RMCG Consulting, with the results this year showing that the removal of this water from the system would have had devastating and widespread consequences to local communities; including the loss of over one thousand jobs from the supply and value chains of the agriculture and food production sector; one of the highest employment sectors across the region. We now know it is unlikely that the 450gL of up-water will be removed from the system but we remain vigilant.

Also this year we experimented a little and partnered with Bendigo TAFE-Echuca Campus, the Campaspe Shire and the Murray River Council, and a small number of start-up businesses and professionals, to deliver a three month trial of a co-working/business hub space. Those who used the facility liked it and have now showed interest in being accommodated in a commercial hub space that has been born out of our pilot project.

We will also note we have also participated in many high-level events that have helped direct the future of the region. This includes sitting on the panel to help create the Loddon Campaspe Economic Statement, attending numerous Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnerships Assemblies, attending workshops with Austrade and AusIndustry, discussing projects with Regional Development Australia, both the Murray and Loddon Mallee chapters, and attending our own Committees for Cities and Regions network meetings, seminars and study tours.

All of which have in some way influenced our direction and decision making to help support our mantra of helping to build a more connected, prosperous and vibrant Echuca-Moama for our members and the community.

More recently C4EM has played a role in the formation of the Echuca Moama Alliance designed to assist the Campaspe Shire in getting the historic Port of Echuca back on track.

While only early days as yet the Alliance has been welcomed into the discussions and there is a genuine commitment from all involved to reach a positive outcome.

We should also add that there is much work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that Echuca Moama is at the forefront of the minds of those who carry the greatest influence on the long-term future of the area.

Of course, there are many equally demanding issues that arise in daily business that at times can be quite political, however the purpose of C4EM is to ensure that the overarching direction of the twintownships remains true.

It must also ensure that there is a balanced view on current affairs, yet also protect the right and passage for future opportunities as the community evolves. We are often challenged for taking an apolitical stand on issues that others see as a clear path or direction…we nearly always offer a position on such topics, and when we do, it is always in the interest of the greater community. This is what we do, and this is what the C4 Network does.

Our recently appointed chief executive Nina O’Brien, is very much looking forward to getting started and picking up from where Martin left off and settling into the role.

C4EM is a self-funded member based organisation and is always on the lookout for new members. Anyone who may be interested in finding out more information on memberships can do so by contacting [email protected] or phoning me on 0419 009 837.