Positive response to waterfront plans

THE RESPONSE from local development groups to Gannawarra Shire Council's draft waterfront plan are varied but are generally positive.

The tranquil Gunbower Creek near Cohuna.

The tranquil Gunbower Creek near Cohuna.

Submissions closed on Thursday.

The waterfront plan, which covers Lakes Kangaroo and Charm, the Murray River frontage at Koondrook and the Gunbower Creek frontage area of Cohuna, outlines proposed projects that aim to boost tourism; attract investment; improve access to, and connections between, natural areas; develop the "brands" of particular areas; and provide infrastructure to benefit local residents.

The draft plan was prepared by Melbourne-based consultants Urban Enterprise, following several years of consultation and research and an initial "concept and discussion paper". 

While the Koondrook Development Committee - the biggest beneficiary of recent and continuing infrastructure development - is closely aligned with the shire on waterfront planning, and the Cohuna Progress Association is broadly on board with the plan, the Kerang Lakes Community Development Group was concerned about how it would be made to happen, while in Kerang some questioned why the town's river frontage hadn't been included.

Long-term Koondrook Development Committee president, Bryan Goble, said the committee had been "heavily involved all the way through" and "instrumental" in the planning for the town's waterfront area, working jointly with the shire, including on sourcing project funding.

Work under way for many years to improve the Murray frontage area had seen the installation of the barbecue shelter, playground, stage, wharf, toilet block and streetscape project, Mr Goble said, and the town was now entering a new stage of development which would see a number of projects carried out that have been five or six years in the planning.

Funding from VicRoads has enabled current works for the streamlining of traffic in the area, Apex Park is being expanded and the conversion by private owners of the old goods shed by the wharf into a restaurant and function room is under way.

He said he believed materials for the construction of "glamping" tents and a footbridge over the Gunbower Creek had already been delivered to the area but construction of those projects had been held up by an administrative or planning issue at the council.

"We're great supporters of [the plan] because it's such a big benefit to our town," Mr Goble said.

Kerang Lakes Community Development Group chair, Gaby Hogg said the group was positive about the waterfront plan but wanted to be assured it wouldn't "just become another document on the shelf."

"We see this foreshore plan has a lot of potential, but we really need to see how it's going to happen. And we need some short-term wins," she said.

The group's submission to the shire on the document pointed to the need for pest, weed and maintenance plans for all the lakes, and for stakeholder groups, including Parks Victoria, Goulburn-Murray Water and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, to agree on their responsibilities and on funding.

"Stakeholder groups not accepting responsibility for land, budgeting for action and working in with local landholders and volunteer groups is the key issue which has stopped many ecotourism ideas in the past. It's always been too hard and therefore shelved," the submission says.

The Lakes Community Development Group had put a lot of ideas forward during the lengthy consultation process, Ms Hogg said, but which of them had made it into the draft was "a bit hit and miss".

The group's submission includes several pages of clarifications, corrections and suggested additions to the draft document, including the need for the upgrade and ongoing maintenance of the ibis rookery at Middle Reedy Lake.

Cohuna Progress Association president, Jason Hensley told a meeting of the organisation last month that the sub-committee assessing the draft plan found that "overall, there were lots of good things in it."

The plan proposes the construction of a commercial accommodation development on council-managed land on the north side of Gunbower Creek, a new footbridge over the creek and the relocation of the swimming pool to the foreshore area adjacent to it - possibly as a "natural pool" requiring no chemicals, the construction of a new carpark on the creek's north side, a second ski run and a wharf area in Apex Park, together with a raft of other features, such as a native garden, an electric vehicle charging station and a new playground. 

It also proposes the relocation of the bowls club and recreation reserve to enable the development of the land.

The progress association sub-committee questioned the proposed location of the new accommodation and made a range of suggested additions to the plan, including the expansion of the Gateway Centre to incorporate the library and a space to sell art, the upgrade of the playground to "all abilities", the addition of a boardwalk, the inclusion of an art trail, and the development of the sawmill site area into a location for gatherings and festivals, such as down-to-earth and nudist events.

The council said no comment would be made on the response to the draft waterfront plan at this stage.

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