The MCA Victoria Division welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Loddon Mallee South Draft Regional Growth Plan (the Plan).

The minerals industry has been an integral part of the economic and social fabric of the Loddon Mallee South Region since the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s. The wealth generated by the industry was a major factor in the region’s economic development and the potential wealth that the industry can generate in the coming decades to secure the economic growth and jobs that will be needed for Loddon Mallee South Region to prosper into the future.

The region remains a highly prospective gold province and is also set to benefit from the continuing expansion of the mineral sands mining sector. For a regional growth and development strategy to be both successful and comprehensive the minerals industry needs be included and considered as important to local economic development as agriculture, retail or any other key industry.

It is at the local planning scheme that local council and the minerals industry intersects. Under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act (MR(SD) Act) exploration work can be undertaken without the need for a planning permit. Mining projects are however required to gain planning approval before the work plan can be approved. Planning approval can be gained through a planning permit issued by the local government authority or through an Environmental Effects Act (EE Act) completed under the direction of the Minister for Planning. Local governments also have a role in administering the native vegetation management framework on behalf of the government.

The majority of regulations impacting on exploration and mining projects are administered by the State. For some projects Commonwealth regulations also apply. Whilst we acknowledge this demarcation of responsibilities there is often very little communication and knowledge sharing across the levels of government to enable efficient, effective and timely decision making. This inquiry therefore offers an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to drive economic development across the State.

The Loddon Mallee South Region draft regional growth plan is a comprehensive document that examines a wide range of factors which will be integral to the development and growth of the region over for the next few decades.

The Victorian Minerals industry has traditionally been and will continue to be an important contributor to Victoria’s growth, particularly in regional and rural Victoria, as such it has an important role to play in the growth of the region.

Overall the MCA sees the plan as a good strategy for the region’s future development in that it addresses the regions development requirements though a wide lens, identifying that future prosperity will be delivered by a diverse economy, an increased population, the development of regional infrastructure, and through supporting a vibrant community.

The role that the minerals industry can play in Loddon Mallee South’s growth in the coming decades should be fully integrated through the plan. In some sections of the plan it is noted that the minerals industry has a key role to play in the region’s growth alongside the region’s other key industries, including but not limited, to agriculture, tourism, retail and hospitality. In other sections the minerals industry is not included in the discussion and its current or potential contribution to the region’s development is not considered. The reasons for this inconsistency are unclear to the MCA and we recommend that the Plan be amended to ensure that the minerals industry receives the same consistent consideration and attention as other major industries.

The MCA looks forward to engaging with the Department in further developing and implementing the plan.

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