The building blocks of Wakefield Regional Council’s future are being “gathered” on the rich plains of the district – and “assembled” by a growing population of young children. With the council marking its 20th anniversary since formation, it is looking at the prospect of tens of millions of dollars in private investment and development and a hoped-for influx of young families.
To boost child care services in the district – and lure families from the metropolitan areas and other towns – the council has provided $100,000 to the Balaklava Community Children’s Centre to propel it towards a half-a-million-dollar expansion.
WRC chief executive officer Jason Kuchel joined youngsters at the centre to put together some building blocks that symbolise the bright future for the region.
From chickens to pigs, solar energy to horticulture, transport hubs to hay exports; these are the district’s developing attributes.
The council sprang from the merger of the local government bodies for Blyth-Snowtown and Wakefield Plains. It includes Balaklava, Owen, Brinkworth, Blyth, Hamley Bridge, Port Wakefield, Lochiel and Snowtown. The population is almost 7000 and growing.
In the past five years, the region attracted more than $100 million in private-sector investment and there is the potential to reach another $300 million-plus in the next five years.
“We have substantial private-sector investment which results in jobs and we expect that will be even greater in the future,” Mr Kuchel said. “We are fostering economic development in other ways such as working with the state government to try to bring about a dual-lane carriage-way through Port Wakefield that should lead to about $20m in private-sector investment along that strip. We are also looking at the tourism potential of capturing visitors already passing through to stop and spend time calling into museums, galleries and cafes.”
In the prime area of agriculture, the district hosts a new mushroom farm being built north of Port Wakefield and expanding intensive-farming activities like chicken and pig production.
On the rim of technology, there is likely expansion by a Snowtown wind farm into solar-power generation and potential for electricity generation using bio-fuels from chicken manure and stubble.
The “jewel” in the crown is the Bowmans intermodal rail and road hub through which mighty amounts of hay exports are hauled overseas.
"We are talking to the state government about bringing the gas pipeline across to Port Wakefield or Bowmans as an incentive for industry and business to set up,” Mr Kuchel said. “Now is the time to introduce these extra ‘building blocks’ to the future we all want."