G21 Snapshots

Snapshots is a monthly report on activity at G21.

Affordable Housing update

G21 is keen to improve housing affordability in the region for both social and economic reasons. We are all aware of the problem in gaining a workforce in towns such as Lorne because of the cost of housing. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg and the affordability of housing is at an all time low.The G21 Affordable Housing Taskforce chaired by Pat Semmens has moved on two fronts to tackle this issue. Firstly, you would be aware that G21, with the support of the City of Greater Geelong and our local MPs Darren Cheeseman and Richard Marles, staged a forum on the issue at which both Federal Minister Tania Plibersek and State Minister Justin Maddern spoke.In parallel with this, G21 sought expressions of interest for one of the eight current Registered Housing Associations to partner with the region in accessing State and Federal funds and delivering projects in the area. We are currently finalising an agreement that will see the registering of a local subsidiary of the successful tenderer and opening of a local office. Several projects are already being developed.Housing Associations are an interesting approach to this issue. During our interviews, they pointed out that they took a holistic view of their clients. For example, they support activities that encourage a sense of community and often employed their clients to provide services in their developments.G21 has also submitted an application for funding under the Federal Housing Affordability Fund that would see land releases brought forward in a number of projects across the region. This has the potential to greatly reduce land costs and thus the costs of building a home in these locations.

ICT Cluster progress

Following the G21 Telecommunications Need Assessment (2005) and the subsequent G21 ICT opportunities study which was completed last year, the State Government has provided $100,000 over two years to establish and support the development of an ICT Cluster for the Geelong region. Led by the City of Greater Geelong, the ICT cluster aims to position Geelong as a major ICT precinct in Victoria by taking a collaborative approach to major projects and attracting new business to the Geelong region. It will serve as a lobby group and a business association that provides ICT links to education and industry partners.Members of the cluster include The City of Greater Geelong, Gordon Institute of TAFE, Deakin University, Neighbourhood Cable, Surf Coast Shire, Fox Digital Web, Radiant Systems Asia Pacific Pty and Express Promotions Australia Pty Ltd.

IDC respond to major projects

The State Government Inter Departmental Committee (IDC) provided its formal response to the “G21 Priority Projects” on March 24.The Premier established the IDC for G21 in late 2007 in order to provide cross-departmental consideration for support and funding assistance of major Geelong Region projects. The ten G21 Priority Projects presented to the IDC late last year are seen as vital in giving effect to the Geelong Region Plan, and are endorsed by all Councils in the G21 region. The IDC response provides a comprehensive status report on the progress of each of the projects, along with contacts provided by the relevant State government Department/s to further the projects' progress. G21 is in the process of reviewing the priority projects as we gear up for the 2010 budget process. It is therefore timely to take stock of progress.

Water Security Study released

The first stage of the G21 Priority Project “Secure Water Program” is now complete with the public release of the G21 Secure Water for Economic Development Study (2009) which examines the supply and demand of water for economic purposes in the G21 region. Led by Golden Plains Shire, the report concentrates on areas that are not connected to the mains supply and examines ideas such as using recycled water or local processing of saline groundwater. It examines not just technical feasibility but also financial and regulatory issues that must be overcome in order to provide a co-ordinated region-wide approach to water security. The report finds that Barwon Water's Plans and Actions are very good for the security of potable water supplies and some recycling initiatives; but that they do not fully address the economic development and agricultural needs of the G21 region. The new report identifies these gaps and provides a detailed list of items and actions to address them. The Department of Sustainability and Environment Office for Water and Barwon Water provided valuable reviews of the reports as they were being prepared. The report also identifies the complicated water responsibility structure as a major challenge. G21 has already prepared a submission on third party access rights and met with the EPA to look at some of the rules that apply.

Workforce planning forum

The public forum held on April 1 attracted more than 70 representatives from industry, peak bodies, unions, education and training organisations to discuss the impacts of the global downturn in the Geelong region, with a particular focus on jobs and industry capacity. Attendees were presented with information outlining the current strengths and vulnerabilities of Geelong region industries, along with confronting information regarding the number of people employed in industry sectors that are considered to be at risk in the current economic environment.Forum facilitators, Researching Futures, then guided discussions to find ways to re-train employees in industries that are at risk while increasing the capacity of industries that are emerging or growing.A range of strategies to engage employers and industry in the discussion are now being explored. Data and recommended actions will be available on the G21 website shortly. The outcomes from the forum will contribute to the final scope of the Career Development and Skills Service.

Inquiry into GFC impacts

Last month, G21 gathered information and opinion to respond to a recently announced inquiry by a Federal Government House of Representatives Standing Committee into the impact of the global financial crisis on regional Australia. Produced in collaboration with and on behalf of a range of regional stakeholders, G21 will provide evidence on infrastructure, transport, regional development and local government to the Inquiry, which will be held in Geelong on April 22.

Ring Road impacts & opportunities

The Geelong Ring Road is the Geelong region’s most important infrastructure development in a generation. It will have significant impacts on the region’s economic development, population growth and land use demands.The Economic & Land Use Impacts of the Geelong Ring Road (2009) is a new report that examines likely growth areas as a result of the development of the Ring Road and the duplication and upgrade of Princes Highway West. Funded by the City of Greater Geelong, G21, the Committee for Geelong and RDV, the report will inform Council and agency planning processes for services and infrastructure. Released three weeks ago, the report shows how the Ring Road and Princes Highway Upgrade are expected to increase the region’s population, industry and employment opportunities, and how this is likely to impact on the region’s land use requirements. It also presents specific recommendations on how the region can make the most of the opportunities that these important pieces of infrastructure present.The information provided may affect land rezoning and help target investment attraction efforts. The report will also help us understand which businesses are likely to relocate because of the infrastructure improvements. This may well result in freeing up of some large sites with redevelopment potential for more valuable uses.In late April 2009, two business roundtables were held in Geelong to discuss “Economic opportunities as a result of the Geelong Ring Road”. Hosted by Victorian Treasurer John Lenders, the invited participants discussed the findings of the new report and developed actions to capture the identified opportunities.

G21 Priority Projects submitted to IDC

When launching the G21 Geelong Region Plan in September 2007, Premier Brumby acknowledged its significance by announcing the establishment of a “G21 Inter-departmental Committee” (IDC) to assist the implementation of our priority projects.The IDC approach proves useful in situations where several government agencies have overlapping responsibilities. These overlaps can create delays and uncertainty, examples of which have been seen recently with some water and coastal issues.During 2008 we have been working with G21 Pillar and project groups, as well as key project stakeholders to develop a “Top 10” set of projects for the region. The projects were drawn from the G21 Geelong Region Plan and developed to fit the opportunity presented by the IDC.To increase the likelihood of securing the extraordinary funding required to deliver these critical regional projects, development of the submission has involved consultation sessions with senior Victorian Government bureaucrats as well as Local Members of State and Federal Governments. The submission represents the collaborative view of the five G21 councils and key regional organisations including statutory authorities, community groups, businesses and industry networks. The first round of G21 priority projects were submitted to the IDC in September 2008. They were:Princes Highway West upgrade Geelong Arts Precinct Convention and Exhibition Centre Tourism Trails Water Secuirty Program Climate Change Impact Management Program Career Develeopment & Skills Service Public Transport Program Harbour and Marina Network Regional Marketing Program