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Wetland plan evolves

The Benalla community had the opportunity to ask questions on the Winton Wetlands masterplan last week.

ANGELA TOWNSEND December 14, 2012 4:44am

A community meeting was held last week to inform the community of advances to the Winton Wetlands masterplan.

The masterplan outlines the vision for the future development of tourism, recreation, community, education and research facilities at the wetlands. It contains implementation plans and high-level financial analysis of various proposals for a potential $57million development project in the wetlands over 10 years.

Winton Wetlands Committee of Management chairman Dr Dennis O’Brien opened last Thursday’s meeting at the Drill Hall in Benalla, saying ‘‘ We have worked hard to make it something that is sustainable’’.

Landscape architect Scott Adams, who has worked on the project for several years, launched into an explanation of the plan.

He said the 8750ha site would retain its ecological drawcard, with plans to draw tourists from not only Victoria, but across Australia and even internationally.

‘‘It is a really beautiful site... a lot of people, I suspect, don’t even know they have this in their backyard,’’ Mr Adams said.

It is a powerful and important site to the indigenous community and also has a colonial history.

‘‘My brief was to prepare a landscape masterplan — something that will generate employment and tourism for the region,’’ he said.

‘‘Sixteen million sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t go very far for a site this big.’’

Mr Adams said the two-stage masterplan would proceed over several years, with the first stage involving the development of recreational facilities for local and regional communities, including construction of shade structures, camping grounds, picnic and barbecue areas, lookouts, development of a general hub store and cafe and major children’s playground, educational signage, walking trails and bike paths.

The proposed inlet channel bicycle trail will extend from Benalla into a network of bike trails within the wetlands and link externally into the existing High Country cycling network, including the popular Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail.

Stage two will move towards securing private investors to fund and operate a number of attractions, with a tree-top walk, tethered balloon rides, a light and sound show and waterfront restaurant being among those possibilities mentioned.

It is planned to include an education centre and camping facilities for both private and school visitors.

It is estimated that stage one will utilise $5 million of the funding held by the committee, and an additional $2million sourced through partnerships, funding and co-investment.

Stage two is budgeted to expend a further $9 million of funding held by the committee as development capital, with plans to leverage this to obtain up to $16 million in matching funding or investment capital.

State Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said he strongly endorsed proceeding with stage one, encouraging the committee to, ‘‘Get on and do it — do a good quality, value for money job.’’

‘‘In relation to stage two, let’s wait and see.’’

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