Regional partnership goes for gold in World Heritage bid

The 2026 Commonwealth Games will propel the Central Victorian Goldfields’ World Heritage bid on to the international stage.

With the regions set to host the majority of sporting events for the Commonwealth Games, Ballarat and Bendigo will serve as the gateway for visitors to discover the unique, rich history of the Central Victorian Goldfields region.

Ballarat is set to be the Commonwealth Games host city for athletics, para athletics, boxing and cricket T20 while Bendigo will host cricket T20, cycling, lawn bowls and para lawn bowls, netball, squash, weightlifting and para powerlifting.

The events will bring people from across the world to the region, providing an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the Central Victorian Goldfields’ World Heritage bid region and all it has to offer.

An unprecedented partnership of Central Victorian councils, led by the cities of Ballarat and Greater Bendigo, has met with the Minister for Regional Development, Mary-Anne Thomas to discuss the benefits of the games for strengthening promotion of the region.

The partnership is optimistic that the State Government will support the transformative initiative with $500,000 in funding, through Regional Development Victoria’s $10 million ‘Investment Fast-Track Fund’, to enable critical work to begin to progress the bid. The partnership has already committed $125,000.

City of Greater Bendigo Mayor, Cr Andrea Metcalf said the announcement that the Commonwealth Games will be held in the regions provides the bid with an international platform.

“This will enable us to promote our exceptional heritage and experiences, disperse games visitors throughout our region and build a legacy for our communities and businesses that strengthens our World Heritage bid,” she said.

“We keenly await news from the State Government on their financial support to help us to achieve all of this, together. We thank Minister Thomas for meeting with us and we look forward to working with the State Government to deliver our collective vision for our region.”

City of Ballarat Mayor, Cr Daniel Moloney welcomed the State Government’s interest in the project.

“The Central Victorian Goldfields’ gold rush heritage is unparalleled on the international stage,” he said.

“This region has a rich history and an incredible story to share with the world. State Government support of this project will take us one critical step closer to World Heritage listing, which will provide significant opportunities for regional Victoria.”

Central Victorian Goldfields World Heritage Bid Co-Patron, The Hon John Brumby AO, said the evidence showed our region featured the best preserved and represented goldrush history in the world.

“If this bid succeeds, and it needs State Government support to succeed, it will unquestionably lead to significant increases in tourists from across the world wanting to experience our story of the goldrush era,” he said.

“It will lead to investment in accommodation and other tourism facilities and will bring more jobs to the region. I think it’s a perfect fit for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.”

Central Victorian Goldfields World Heritage Bid Co-Patron, The Hon Denis Napthine AO, said strong government commitment to the bid would boost the bid and the region’s local communities.

“Government support is vital for this bid, which will deliver enormous benefits in terms of regional growth and development,” he said.

“World Heritage listing is a proven, powerful catalyst. It will deliver enormous immediate and long-term benefits, including investment, tourism and jobs, while promoting local and national pride in this remarkable region.”

Victorian Goldfields Tourism Executive, Chris Meddows-Taylor said additional funding would enable critical work, including that of the World Heritage Master Plan, to begin.

“It would be wonderful to see the unique magnificence and great wealth of the 19th Century central Victorian gold rush recognised for World Heritage Listing, enabling massive regional opportunities and regeneration in the 21st century and beyond.”

The Central Victorian Goldfields World Heritage Bid was progressed in December last year. The unprecedented partnership of 13 councils, led by the cities of Ballarat and Greater Bendigo, and regional tourism body Victorian Goldfields Tourism Executive was formed to progress the bid to share the extraordinary story of the goldfields internationally by striving for a World Heritage listing.

This funding will get the bid ready for World Heritage tentative listing for consideration by the State and Federal Governments. It will help the group identify sites that could make the World Heritage list, outline the investment needed to leverage the bid to benefit local jobs, develop World Heritage journeys, support communities and industry, including rebuilding after the pandemic.

The World Heritage listing aims to unlock the full potential of the region, bringing economic diversification, jobs, investment and tourism, and raising the socio-economic outlook for cities, towns and local communities.

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