The surge in intrastate visitors to small regional towns caused by interstate and international border controls, has seen many of these towns scramble to try and meet the increased demand for visitor services.
Murray towns have weathered this trend well, as Western Australian's have 'wondered out yonder' to embrace nature-based tourism experiences and escape metropolitan areas.
In Dwellingup for example, the Trails and Visitor Centre realised a 245 percent visitor increase over the 2020-2021 financial year.
Most accommodation providers are booked out for weekend stays until April 2022 and there has been a notable increase in midweek bookings.
But what happens when the borders reopen?
Council is committed to diversifying Murray's economy to ensure a sustainable future for our towns.
As part of this commitment we are working to achieve a balance between existing industries including tourism, quality of life for residents, art, heritage, culture, protecting the environment and maintaining and delivering a pipeline of major projects that will grow new and existing industries.
Exemplary of this, is the approach adopted for the development of Dwellingup.
For over two years, parallel to significant tourism infrastructure investment, the Shire has been working with the community and stakeholders on the Dwellingup Futures project, to plan for a sustainable future for the town and surrounding region.
Managing the often-overlapping sectors of water, mining, forestry, tourism and accommodation together with providing a safe and secure place to live for around 400 residents and their families, poses significant challenges, risks, and opportunities.
Throughout the process, the differing stakeholder views and aspirations have been heard, and a thoughtful and considered roadmap formulated, which documents a collective and shared vision and clear implementation pathway.
The roadmap is currently being finalised following the recent public comment period, and will be presented to Council for endorsement at the October Meeting, prior to consideration by the Minister for Regional Development.
Additionally, Council is supporting the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in seeking to reclassify Lane Poole Reserve as a National Park, to protect this internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot and strategically important cultural, heritage and eco-tourism asset.
Beyond Dwellingup, Council is advocating for the delivery of stage two of the Pinjarra Heavy Haulage Deviation and the Western Deviation to improve access to the Pinjarra Industrial Area.
The revitalisation of Pinjarra is progressing through projects such as the Exchange Hotel redevelopment, downgrading of the roads within the town centre to improve pedestrian activity and the activation of Edenvale Heritage and Heritage Railway Precincts.
Additionally, construction of the Western Australian Food Innovation Precinct is well underway and Council is overseeing developments to ensure its successful operation.
With our community by our side, the future is bright for Murray.
- Cr. David Bolt is Shire of Murray President