HUB OF THE WIMMERA
The Wimmera covers an extensive area of western Victoria, incorporating five local government areas. Centred on Horsham, the region covers close to 30,000 square kilometres, about 13 per cent of Victoria's total land area. The region has a population of 52,000.
Agricultural production in the Wimmera contributes more than $600 million each year to the Victorian economy. The Melbourne-Adelaide transport corridor traverses the region, placing Horsham within an important regional and national context. The city is also at the junction of three major highways - the Wimmera, Henty and Western highways.
The Grampians and Little Desert National Parks and the towns of the Wimmera are all significant tourism assets. The region attracts 1.2 million visitors a year, who contribute $220 million to the economy.
Horsham is the hub of a region that is experiencing positive economic change as the result of agricultural diversification, the development of value-adding industries, increasing industry support and ongoing infrastructure improvements.
PROSPEROUS AND PROGRESSIVE
Horsham Rural City is the Wimmera's major shopping centre. It is a prosperous and progressive municipality where more than 100 new houses are built each year. This trend has remained consistent for the past 15 years. There's a new hospital, new research facilities at the Victorian Institute for Dryland Agriculture, an upgraded racecourse, new golf clubrooms with the capacity for 300 people, new grain storage and processing works, new saleyards and new housing estates. A refurbished and extended Art Gallery and new Performing Arts Centre cater for the cultural sector.
The community boasts an entrepreneurial spirit with a vision for the long-term future. Value-adding is the key to many successful businesses including Wimmera Container Lines, The Lentil Company, J.K. Milling, Australian Mower Company, Johnson Asahi and Harvest Grain Australia. These companies and many others are living proof that good ideas, enterprise and co-operation pave the way to success.
A proliferation of small to medium-sized companies has emerged in Horsham in the past decade. They nearly all ride on the Wimmera's historical strength - agriculture - to create dynamic export industries that inject overseas money into the local economy. Looking beyond the farm gate is the philosophy behind many of these new industries.
Horsham Rural City Council is also capitalising on the value-adding concept. It sold former saleyards in central Horsham to the State Government's Urban Lands Corporation and used the proceeds to buy 200 hectares on the city's south-east corner to establish the Burnt Creek Industrial Estate.
The council spent $3.8 million to develop Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange at the Burnt Creek site. The exchange, a success story within itself, has achieved National Saleyards Quality Assurance Standards. It also broke all estimates in its first year with a record throughput of 485,000 sheep and lambs. The Council is taking the concept further by working hard to attract an export abattoir to the site. Other proposed developments for the site include a $100-million mill that utilises an unused resource - wheat straw - and turns it into high quality paper pulp.
One of the driving forces behind Horsham's business success is Wimmera Development Association, a regional economic development body covering four local municipalities. The Association is a vital link between industry and government and has a proven track record in attracting new development to Horsham Rural City. Among the Association's achievements are the increasingly popular bi-annual business awards, which showcase the region's entrepreneurial spirit.
Horsham is a learning city, providing a wealth of education opportunities for people of all ages, from pre-school children right through to people in their 90s. Public and private primary and secondary schools provide the best in education, with students having access to the latest technology and ideas. Younger children also have access to the best in learning at child-care centres and kindergartens. The city also provides first-class after-school and vacation care programs.
The city boasts two university campuses, the University of Melbourne's Longerenong Agricultural College and the University of Ballarat. Horsham Learning Centre provides a range of courses for adults and the city's University of the Third Age follows a philosophy that "you're never too old to learn".
Almost 30 per cent of Horsham's workforce is employed in retailing or wholesaling, another 19 per cent work in the health or community services field. Horsham's population continues to grow, with many people choosing to relocate for job opportunities, retirement, or the relaxed, safe and exciting lifestyle.
Horsham also provides employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities through Karkana Day Centre, where clients manage a highly-successful market produce enterprise. Horsham company The Wool Factory, another community organisation that employs and trains people with disabilities, has produced ultra-fine merino wool since 1982. It also manufactures timber products, has strong tourism and hospitality interests and consistently achieves record seasonal prices for its wool.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Horsham festivals and events attract thousands of visitors each year. The city has a diverse and exciting events calendar that caters for all interests, from arts to fishing. The Art Is... festival involves schools and community groups in its packed program; the Awakenings Performing Arts Festival provides opportunities for people with a disability and attracts people from across the nation; and the Kannamaroo Festival, which has been run for more than 20 years, brings more than 500 rock-n-roll enthusiasts to the city every year.
A Labour Day weekend fishing contest, which has been held for more than 30 years, has a reputation as the biggest all-prizes-must-be won inland fishing contest in the Southern Hemisphere. The event returns profits to local community organisations and injects about $1 million into the Horsham economy.
Other events on Horsham's calendar include Carols By Candlelight, Spring Garden Festival, the Horsham Arts Council annual production, motor show, film festival, Spring Orchid Show and Wimmera Art Exhibition. Wimmera Machinery Field Days, in March each year, has a solid reputation as one of Australia's most prominent field days events.
LEISURE AND ENTERTAINMENT
Horsham offers a range of options in leisure and entertainment, with a Regional Art Gallery, cinema, Performing Arts Centre, Art-Craft Workshop and a variety of cafes and restaurants. The art gallery has attracted significant public and private money, allowing for extensive renovations. It is the only gallery in Victoria that specialises in photography, housing 800 photographs from the early 20th century to today. It also houses a significant collection of Australian art including pieces by Sir Sidney Nolan, Glover, Longstaff and Olsen, as well as local identity Neil Douglas.
Entertainment venues include Wesley Performing Arts Centre, an historic church building that a hard-working volunteer committee has helped refurbish, the Town Hall and Soundshell on the banks of the Wimmera River.
Welcoming pubs and clubs including the recently-refurbished Horsham Sports and Community Club, Horsham RSL Club and the Victoria Hotel are among a multitude of meal and entertainment venues. History abounds in the popular Olde Horsham restaurant and motel and Glen Logan Restaurant, a restored local mansion.
Walking tracks along the banks of the Wimmera River provide a peaceful and picturesque escape with continuing rehabilitation works and tree planting improving the natural resource. Horsham Botanic Gardens and May Park are also popular, especially during the city's mild autumn and spring months.
Outdoor adventurers from around the world flock to Natimuk, 20 minutes from Horsham, to visit rock-climbing mecca Mount Arapiles. Grampians National Park, also a short drive from Horsham, is another popular destination for climbers and walkers. Between the two National Parks, climbers have a choice of thousands of climbs presenting a host of variety and difficulty.
An indoor leisure & aquatic centre is currently being planned and construction will commence in early 2005. The new centre will be an adjunct to the existing outdoor pool and promises to be an exciting addition to local and Wimmera Region leisure options. The centre is intended to be open ahead of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, which will be held in March 2006
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
The Wimmera is home to the Victorian Institute for Dryland Agriculture. The nationally-significant grains industry technology centre is going through a multi-million dollar upgrade and this government funding, along with investment from private companies, will allow more immediate results for VIDA's world-class grains industry research.
Horsham also provides wonderful opportunities for its young people, with the Horsham Rural City Council helping the community and youth organisations to provide a centre that people aged between 12 and 25 can call their own. "Nexus" is a popular and thriving centre designed to meet the health, social, recreational and entertainment needs of all young people in the district. Young people also have access to a range of sport, education, employment and leisure opportunities.
A LIFESTYLE CHOICE
In 2001 Horsham became the first Victorian town to win the honor of being "Australia's Tidiest Town". The award reflects the community's and was the result of a joint effort by all people living in the city. Horsham is long recognised as a leader in waste management and recycling, being the first area in the state to collect milk cartons for recycling.
Horsham Rural City Council works closely with community groups and government organisations to maintain the city's track record. Major projects include wetland works along the Wimmera River and at the city's racing track. The council also works closely with a tidy towns committee, which estimates the community spends 100,000 volunteer hours a year keeping the environment in ship-shape condition.
Horsham residents have access to affordable housing, piped natural gas and all other utilities. The Overland train passes through the city on its way from Melbourne to Adelaide.
Horsham has an abundance of sporting opportunities ranging from gymnastics to football, horse racing, tennis, bowls, speedway racing, golf, croquet, athletics and basketball. Plans for a new leisure centre including a heated pool are on the drawing board, with the council working closely with the community on this project.
A band of volunteers works hard to provide sporting opportunities for people with disabilities through a popular Riding for the Disabled group and the community also strongly supports a wheelchair basketball competition.
Horsham boasts an 18-hole greens golf course, the best in country Victoria and the 37th best in Australia. New clubroom facilities further cement the course's solid reputation. Motor sports enthusiasts from across Australia flock to Blue Ribbon Speedway for a packed calendar of events throughout the year.
Horsham Rural City offers excellent lifestyle, business, entertainment and sporting opportunities to its residents and visitors. It has the essential social and economic infrastructure to support the diverse needs of its modern municipality. Best of all, as the municipality grows it maintains its unique rural lifestyle that makes the Wimmera Region a wonderful, safe and exciting place to live.