Economic assessment finds World Heritage worth $1B to Goldfields region

A report outlining the significant economic benefits of achieving a UNESCO World Heritage listing for the Central Victorian Goldfields has been released ahead of the State election, as the project chases an investment of $500,000 from the Victorian Government to be put toward shortlisting potential World Heritage sites within the region and preparing a master plan for increased regional investment.

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. Dr. Denis Napthine AO, are currently leading a campaign on behalf of 13 councils across the Goldfields region to inscribe significant gold rush-era sites on the World Heritage list and strengthen the region’s economy and create new jobs.

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. 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 will lead to 1,750 additional jobs.

  • Regional income (direct and indirect wages, salaries, and profits for business) would have increased by $150 million.

Growth in overnight visitor numbers will create demand for additional accommodation, both hotel and family type accommodation. This increase in accommodation will occur progressively over time and is estimated that it will need in the order of $570 million total investment. This accommodation will provide a long-term foundation for the tourist industry and will service the market for many years beyond the first decade following World Heritage listing. Increased investment will also improve local quality of life and provides 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,” he 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 private sector, we can address this issue.”

Dr Napthine said the data in the economic assessment was compelling, particularly with planning underway for the 2026 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. 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,” he said.

“This assessment not only clearly demonstrates the case for World Heritage Listing but also proves to developers and businesses that when Listing is achieved, this will deliver a strong steady stream of tourists filling local accommodation and supporting new and upgraded tourism product.”

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

City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Daniel Moloney said 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,” Cr Moloney said.

City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Cr 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,” Cr Andrea Metcalf.

View the full reports on the Goldfields World Heritage website.

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