Local business and community leaders are continuing to work together to lead a pilot project to attract skilled migrants to the Central Goldfields Shire and specifically Maryborough.
The partnership is in response to staff and skills shortages that are affecting businesses big and small – both locally and nationally.
The pilot project – Welcome to Central Goldfields – is an opportunity to look at ways to support successful relocation to the Shire as well as advocate at all levels of government on workforce and housing needs.
Central Goldfields Shire Mayor Cr Chris Meddows-Taylor said that housing shortages had been the focus of community discussion since the launch of the Welcome to Central Goldfields project last month.
“We are well aware that like many other regional locations, we have a housing shortage here in the Central Goldfields. The reality is this is not something that can be changed overnight. Housing provision is a complex issue and there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions available to local government.
“It’s an area Council has been working to address for many years with housing challenges a focus of much of our current strategic work, we remain committed to tackling these issues in a sustainable way.
“When asked what the most important issues that influence finding and keeping staff in a recent Council survey, local businesses told us lack of accommodation, limited housing options and difficulty finding rental properties were some of the biggest barriers.”
Finding suitable housing and accommodation is a common issue for local businesses when trying to recruit and with construction on the $100 million Maryborough District Health Service rebuild not too far away, the health service is focusing on supporting relocation.
“Finding accommodation for new staff, particularly if they are relocating from overseas, can be a real barrier in being able to recruit,” MDHS CEO Nickola Allan said.
“To help rectify this, the health service has been supporting people in their relocation journey in relation to sourcing local housing options. This also makes it a more attractive proposition to become part of our community.
“This has been a focus for MDHS particularly for the past 18 months and will be a continued priority as the health service and our workforce continues to expand.”
The health service is also working on future workforce plans to ensure the needs of the new hospital are met.
“We know what our staffing needs are right now, but this planning is about ensuring we know what will be required once our new hospital opens – this will require recruiting both internally and externally, so it’s important we are addressing our housing needs on all levels,” Ms Allan said.
The strategic work Council is exploring to address housing challenges includes:
- Council is liaising with Victorian Government agencies through initiatives such as the Loddon Mallee Housing Revitalisation Strategy and identifying where Central Goldfields may be eligible for a share of Victoria’s Big Housing Build provision of social and affordable housing.
- Central Victoria Primary Care Partnership has recently funded Council to undertake a Social and Affordable Housing Needs Analysis. This will provide the necessary data so that Council can secure a share of funding from state and federal programs.
- A current planning permit application will be considered by Council in the coming months. The application seeks to deliver 20 small affordable units in Maryborough.
- Council also continues to undertake medium and long-term strategic planning to increase land availability for housing over time and facilitate residential development in appropriate areas.
- Talbot Futures Project will identify options for a centralised sewerage system in Talbot and provide up to date cost estimates for a preferred option. Council is partnering with Central Highlands Water on the engineering aspects of the project.
- Council continues to implement the Population, Housing and Residential Strategy adopted in June 2020 including:
- Land Use Framework Plan for Maryborough North, Carisbrook and Flagstaff
- Review of Heritage Controls in Maryborough
This work will seek to ease the current housing shortage issue for the municipality and set up Central Goldfields Shire to become a destination along the Ballarat to Maryborough growth corridor.
- Council has also recently supported the investigation into a proponent led combined rezoning and planning permit process for new residential allotments at 52 Ross Street, Maryborough to meet some of the increasing demand for residential land.