In Australia, we divide our country up into states and council areas to plan and provide government services. Increasingly though, regional approaches to planning and service delivery are bringing benefits to communities. A region is bigger than one council but smaller than a whole state.
A regional scope often enables economies of scale for projects and services that are not viable for smaller organisational budgets.
Regions often also provide us with more meaningful boundaries. Water catchment regions are a good example – where decisions made in one council area, or even one state area, should ideally be in harmony with other council or state decisions in the region.
The Murchison region in Tasmania includes West Coast Council, Circular Head Council, Waratah-Wynyard Council and Burnie City Council. King Island Council were also included in the project described in this story.
Figure 1: The Murchison region
Waratah-Wynyard Council identified that economic and community development in the Murchison region of Tasmania was rather fragmented. Much good regional work is done by the Cradle Coast Authority, particularly on tourism, However the absence of coherent regional planning for community development and economic development was tending to reinforce a perception that the region was entirely a rural community with a small dispersed population.
Figure 2: Waratah-Wynyard Council got together with West Coast, Circular Head, Burnie and King Island Councils to develop a shared regional community plan
Research indicates that sustainable and competitive regions elsewhere in Australia include a vibrant regional city at the heart of the region.
When regions are looked at in this way – with an appreciation of the role of a centre within a region – regional areas offer people the benefits of city life in their centres and the benefits of a rural regional lifestyle in the surrounds. People can live the ‘tree changers’ dream and yet work or come into a town or city when they need to.
With good planning and services, regional areas may become increasingly attractive to more people, as an area to buy property, or to live, to set up a business, to work in or to commute from. It is predicted that the Murchison area will increasingly rely on knowledge and innovation as the foundation of its future prosperity. The community’s capacity to innovate will depend largely on knowledge skills and networks within their own region.
So Waratah-Wynyard Council got together with West Coast, Circular Head, Burnie and King Island Councils, to develop an integrated regional plan. As a central city location for the Murchison region, Burnie’s role will be very important. The vision of the Sustainable Murchison Plan is to create a thriving region, with Burnie as its centre. So it will be important that the plan is closely linked with Burnie City Council’s community and strategic planning.
The process of developing the plan was remarkable too. Over 1,900 community members took part in consultations on what the Sustainable Murchison Community Plan should achieve. The councils used an interesting online service called Placespeak to enable the councils to share information, to receive input from the region and community members through means such as surveys.
Figure 3: Those interested can find out more about Placespeak's use of online tools to facilitate collaboration and sharing with the community can visit - www.placespeak.com
The plan will be used by the Councils involved to provide broad guidance on regional objectives for each council’s own Strategic Plans. The regional plan developed through this process will provide a unified vision for the Murchison region over the next 25 years. The Murchison group of councils will investigate potential linkages with the other councils on the North West Coast in due course to see if there are ways to link and extend the work of the Sustainable Murchison Community Plan.