Innovation, infrastructure and partnerships crucial for Geelong

On regional Victoria’s tourism growth potential, Geelong Otway Tourism, Executive Director, Roger Grant said there is great opportunity but we need to address infrastructure gaps to deliver world class tourism product for jobs and economic return.


Taking the growth pressure off Melbourne and growing regional Victoria is a key issue on the state government agenda, Regional Development Victoria (RDV), Chief Executive, Lachlan Bruce told a CEDA audience at a recent event in Geelong.

There are now regular conversations at the top table at the DCP [Department of Development and Community Development] and management table about accommodating growth in regional Victoria and delivering on the Governments ambitions that they will take the growth pressure off Melbourne by growing regional cities and regional Victoria where the communities are very receptive to receiving that growth," Mr Bruce said.

"Over the next 30-40 years, if we do our job properly, we could accommodate up to 630,000 new people in regional Victoria."

"That's obviously got to be carefully planned and there are infrastructure challenges that go along with that."

On regional Victoria's tourism growth potential, Geelong Otway Tourism, Executive Director, Roger Grant said there is great opportunity but we need to address infrastructure gaps to deliver world class tourism products, for jobs and economic return.

"Tourism is more than just can't sell what you don't have," he said.

"Geelong Otway Tourism is looking at the development of the supply side, making sure we are capitalising on our competitive advantages," he said.

You can't be everything to everybody, he said, and instead we have to focus on our strengths which, for the Geelong Otway region, include:

  • Nature, adventure, walking
  • History, heritage, indigenous culture
  • Food and wine
  • Wildlife
  • Events, business, sport and cultural

The region receives seven million visitors annually, which is 60 per cent of all international visitors to Victoria. By comparison, Phillip Island received 12 per cent, he said.

In order to tackle the tourism downturn, brought on by a high Australian dollar, and the tendency for Australians to travel internationally instead of domestically, we need to stimulate and match demand domestically by capitalising on the short two-three day break, he said.

Mr Grant said that tourism is about more than just visitor numbers - we need to focus on yield not volume, with half the people but higher expenditure and return visits.

In a low growth scenario Mr Grant said we would see an additional two million people visiting the area by 2030 or 10.5 million in a high growth scenario.

Mr Grant outlined the Destination Management Plan (DMP), which clearly identifies significant infrastructure that would reap the true potential of tourism for the region. The DMP projects identified could deliver $1.1 billion, create 2800 jobs during construction, 1900 jobs annually and could add $700m to the Victorian economy.

These projects include:

  • International terminal at Avalon airport;
  • Great Ocean Road and the Great Ocean Walk showcased as a world-standard experience;
  • Geelong Convention and Exhibition facilities to aid business events;
  • Moonlight Head Lodge to fill the need for a high quality iconic nature based accommodation facility;
  • A resort located in Port Campbell;
  • Lake Condah and Buj Bim, a world heritage opportunity; and
  • A Loch Ard Gorge Interpretive Centre.

While we need to address infrastructure gaps, we also need new opportunities to engage the private sector, enabled by policy settings and frameworks, he said.

TAC, Chief Executive Officer, Janet Dore discussed the benefits of moving a government office to regional Victoria.

"We were the largest ever move of a government agency or department" in Victoria and it injected $59 million into the local economy Ms Dore said.

The local economy benefited from staff purchasing over 200 homes, a further 51 being rented and recruitment of people who already live here, she said.

The challenge for the TAC, and many organisations, is to retain skilled and experienced staff. As a result the TAC has adopted a flexible work approach and focus on recruiting the best people for the job, she said.

The TAC have "more than 800 employees because of our flexible working arrangements, we have job shares, we have part time, we have people on parental leave, and we're embracing all those challenges of flexibility," she said.

But there are two sides to this coin, she said.

"We needed to always try and find a balance between the need and the opportunity to rejuvenate and not to lose too much memory."

Our turnover rate is right down now, less than two per cent, which means we need to guard against getting complacent and not rejuvenating and innovating, she said.

Ms Dore said the TAC was being used as a model for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and suggested a pilot could be rung through the Geelong region with head quarters in a regional city.

Deakin University, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) and Vice President, Professor John Catford said the future role of education in strengthening the economy lies in building capacity by partnering with the community and organisations in the region.

The relationship between Deakin and Geelong is complementary; their existence and success is dependent on each other, Professor Catford said.

To order to help build infrastructure, capacity and strengthen enterprise, Professor Catford cited Deakin's new innovation centre for fibre manufacturing, medical laboratories, cloud learning and engineering initiative.

Deakin want to be seen as important economic driver of the region and these projects have major economic impact and create jobs, he said.

Geelong could be at the forefront of the development of cloud learning, to take education to where students are and support them, but this is dependent upon the NBN rollout, he said.

On how Deakin is helping address the lower than state average attainment levels in the area Professor Catford said Deakin was taking an approach to improve access through pathway programs, outreach programs and local school relations as well as addressing the University's selection criteria. He said Deakin can do, and are committed to doing, more.

On retaining staff in the area, Professor Catford said we need to retain graduates and not let them disappear. To address this, Deakin aims to provide more specialist training, for example for medical professionals.

Barwon Health, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Paul Cohen also highlighted that stakeholder relations were crucial to the success of community and organisation.

He said, for Barwon Health this includes the relationships with the regions TAFE's, universities, Medicare locals and also, for example, with the Alfred; Barwon Health is regularly visited by the Alfred to share innovations.

Geelong Manufacturing Council, Executive Director, David Peart said innovation is key for manufacturing and a fundamental driver of economic growth.

"In fact, if you haven't changed, reinvested and reinvented your business, then you're probably not here anymore," Mr Peart said.

Employment in manufacturing in the region has decreased from 19,000 at its peak and is now 15,000.

"Innovation has been a necessary part of competing in the future," said Mr Peart citing Ford in Geelong. At their peak they employed 5500 people, and a few years ago were outputting a similar number but with less than half the people, he said.

We need 75 per cent of the 150 companies that the council work with to be innovating. Currently only 25 per cent are probably being innovative, he said.

Keynote speaker and Victorian Government Architect, Professor Geoffrey London said good design delivers value and adds value; bad design costs.

Good design should give an identity and sense of pride, Professor London said.

As examples of good design, he cited the Melbourne Museum and Federation Square, Southern Cross Station, the Craigieburn bypass and Eastlink.

Professor London spoke of an ambitious master plan for Auckland, called the Majors vision.

The plan acknowledges Auckland's unique natural setting and recognises their aim for an extraordinary built environment of heritage buildings, sustainable new developments and quality streets and places befitting a globally competitive city, he said.

"These same words could apply to Geelong," he said.

"They set out a number of ambitions for the city and they project possible numbers, and set out how they will improve public transport and how access through the city may be improved for pedestrians."