Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

'Shepparton has bright future': former director

Greater Shepparton City Council's former sustainability director Dean Rochfort believes the city is well placed for a prosperous future.

DARREN LINTON November 8, 2012 4:51am

Dean Rochfort leaves Greater Shepparton City Council at the end of the month for the fast-growing City of Wyndham.

Dean Rochfort leaves Greater Shepparton confident the city has a bright future.

After eight years as Greater Shepparton City Council’s director of sustainability, Mr Rochfort said the economic base, future planning and generous community spirit all boded well for the future.

Mr Rochfort leaves at the end of the month to guide sustainable growth at City of Wyndham, between Melbourne and Geelong.

The city adds the equivalent of Benalla to its population every year.

‘‘It is a fantastic opportunity for me career-wise,’’ he said.

‘‘It is the fastest-growing municipality in the state.’’

He leaves behind a major piece of unfinished business, the Goulburn Valley Freight and Logistics Centre.

Under his direction, the project has passed through the land acquisition, planning and design stages, but is yet to attract the major tenant that will kickstart the development.

‘‘Council has had three firm offers, but they haven’t been the right people at the right time,’’ he said.

Mr Rochfort said the project had been shaped to take advantage of the Goulburn Valley Hwy bypass and a possible rail link.

It also fitted with Victorian and Federal Government approaches to dealing with a doubling of freight during the coming decades and increased global demand for food.

‘‘Strategically, the project is right,’’ he said.

Mr Rochfort also supported Shepparton Show Me as an appropriate vehicle for business promotion.

But he said the time was right for a review, along with the review of the rating strategy, a forthcoming review of the central business district strategy and a new retail strategy to address, among other things, the drift to online shopping.

‘‘At the end of the day the customer is king and the challenge is to adjust,’’ he said.

While the council had received the brunt of criticism for the number of empty shops in the city, Mr Rochfort said much of the work the organisation did went unseen.

He cited examples such as business support and training, and long-term planning to allow businesses such as Unilever and Tatura Milk Industries to expand.

Mr Rochfort said while a lot of the public focus could be on ‘‘chasing smokestacks’’, much of the real economic development work was about supporting and enhancing what already existed.

He pointed to commercial building approvals, the best in the north-east, as proof Greater Shepparton was growing its economic base.

Mr Rochfort is the last executive domino to fall, leaving chief executive Gavin Cator with a completely new team of directors.

‘‘The emotional intelligence and knowledge is something we are going to miss,’’ Mr Cator said.

‘‘I am disappointed that Dean is leaving us at a time of significant change in the organisation.’’

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