Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo, Victoria

The City of Greater Bendigo and City of Ballarat – working with the Victorian Goldfields Tourism Executive and co-patrons The Hon. John Brumby AO and The Hon. Denis Napthine AO – are leading a campaign on behalf of 13 councils across the Goldfields region, aiming to inscribe significant gold rush-era sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The campaign comes as a report outlining the significant economic benefits of achieving a UNESCO World Heritage listing for the Central Victorian Goldfields has been released. 

The Central Victorian Goldfields World Heritage bid Local Government partners are: Ararat Rural City, Campaspe Shire, Central Goldfields Shire, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Bendigo, Golden Plains Shire, Hepburn Shire, Loddon Shire, Macedon Ranges Shire, Moorabool Shire Council, Mount Alexander Shire, Northern Grampians Shire and Pyrenees Shire Councils. 

The 13 central Victorian Councils behind the bid continue to advocate to the Victorian Government for $500,000 to be put towards two key pieces of strategic work – selecting a small number of sites across the region that are considered the most exceptional examples of goldfields heritage and developing a Sustainable Tourism Master Plan to identify strategic investment, including the creation of World Heritage journeys to disperse tourists and spread the benefits to communities throughout the region.

The Economic Benefit Assessment was prepared by TRC Tourism with MCa (Michael Connell and Associates) for the City of Ballarat, the City of Greater Bendigo and the Victorian Goldfields Tourism Executive on behalf of the Central Victorian Goldfields World Heritage listing bid partnership.

The bid would ultimately need to be signed off by the Federal Government before being presented to UNESCO for consideration.

An Economic Benefit Assessment, prepared by TRC Tourism and MCa consultants, has found a World Heritage listing offers the potential to accelerate regional recovery and provide long term economic, social and cultural benefits for the Central Victorian Goldfields region.

Key findings highlight how World Heritage listing will grow the visitor economy progressively over time, with the return continuing to increase each year. 

The report also finding that, by the tenth year following World Heritage listing, in comparison to business-as-usual tourism growth, there would be:

  • An additional 2.2 million new visitors to the region
  • An additional $440 million spent in the local economy
  • Growth in visitors related to the World Heritage bid alone would  lead to 1,750 additional jobs
  • Regional income (direct and indirect wages, salaries, and profits for business) would have increased by $150 million

Bendigo City Council said that the listing would grow overnight visitor numbers and create demand for both hotel and family-type additional accommodation, with this increase  occurring progressively over time and needing a $570 million total investment. 

Council also said that this accommodation will provide a long-term foundation for the tourist industry and will service the market for many years beyond the World Heritage listing. Increased investment can also improve local quality of life and provide an opportunity to attract new residents as a place to live and work.

It is expected the findings of the report will drive the development of new visitor journeys and accommodation across the region to support not only a future listing but also the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Mr Brumby, who joined university and business leaders on a recent delegation to the UK, said the impact of the Commonwealth Games on Birmingham and the Midlands had been extremely positive, but it highlighted the crucial importance of accommodation for athletes, officials and tourists.

“There is no doubt in my mind that a big part of the challenge of delivering the Games in the regions for Victoria in 2026 is going to be the provision of accommodation,” Mr Brumby said.

“The combined impact of World Heritage listing and the Commonwealth Games will highlight and exacerbate the shortage of quality accommodation we have in regional Victoria. 

“But if action is taken now by governments and the private sector, we can address this issue.”

Dr Napthine said the data in the economic assessment was compelling, particularly with planning underway for the Commonwealth Games.

“Both Ballarat and Bendigo are host cities for the Games and one of the key advantages of hosting the Games regionally is to further boost Victorian regional economies,” Dr Napthine said.

“However investors need strong evidence of strong ongoing regional tourism in addition to the ‘sugar hit’ from the two week window of Games competition in order to justify significant investment in regional tourism accommodation and infrastructure.”

City of Ballarat Mayor, Daniel Moloney, said a World Heritage listing was a globally recognised mark of quality and a World Heritage listing would provide the Central Victorian Goldfields region with an excellent accredited tourism product.

“People around the world often have a bucket list of World Heritage sites they want to visit and along with the World Heritage listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in south-west Victoria and Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. World Heritage designation of Victoria’s Central Victorian Goldfields would enhance Victoria’s cultural offering both for the Commonwealth Games but also ongoing,” Mayor Moloney said.

City of Greater Bendigo Mayor, Andrea Metcalf, said research based on the impact of World Heritage sites around the world showed they were a constant draw for domestic and international visitors when targeted and strategic investment was put in place.

“World Heritage listing and World Heritage journeys in the Central Victorian Goldfields region will provide investment assurance, so what will be most important in the immediate future is coordinating this investment to develop regional tourism offerings that complement and leverage World Heritage listing and ensure that we can share the benefits of increased tourism dollars across the region,” Mayor Metcalf said.

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