AN $8.3 million upgrade of Horne Road on Warrnambool’s eastern outskirts will begin soon to launch a huge new industrial estate capable of meeting expansion demands for at least a decade.
It will also provide a new heavy-duty detour for traffic between the Princes and Hopkins highways to bypass the city centre. Regional Cities Minister and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine announced the state government would contribute $3.6m with private sector developers putting in $2.6m and the city council $2.1m.
It was hailed as the go-ahead for a major milestone in Warrnambool’s history and mayor Cr Jacinta Ermacora described the funding as “the most significant new investment in our city in our generation”.
“This sends a clear signal to investors, residents and visitors that we are ready and open for business,” she said.
Horne Road is the main access to the proposed estate which gained government approval in May to be rezoned from farming to industrial land after a long controversial selection process and objections by neighbours.
It is expected to generate hundreds of jobs and $60m in new infrastructure and assets for the city during the next 10 years.
The 65-hectare first stage is expected to be released onto the market in the first quarter of 2014 with potential for a further 42 hectares to the north and south to be rezoned on a stage-by-stage basis.
Reconstruction of the full three-kilometre length of Horne Road from the Princes Highway to Wangoom Road and intersection upgrades is expected to start by next Easter to be completed early 2014.
Dr Napthine said the project would address a critical shortage of suitable land which had been estimated to be as short as two-to-three years.
“This limited supply has driven industrial land costs up which is curbing investment and compromising employment growth,” he said.
“Non-residential investment is not keeping pace with the city’s population growth.
“This new industrial precinct provides a clear path for future investment and growth.”
Developers Brendan Howard, Tony Herbert and Tom Lindsey, who spotted the opportunity about three years ago, said they were now working on a development plan for city council approval and public exhibition.
“It’s a terrific day for Warrnambool and job opportunities,” Mr Howard said.
“We envisage having about 20 blocks of about 2000 square metres for sale in the first stage.”
City council chief executive Bruce Anson was happy to see his vision of new industrial land come closer to reality after a frustrating decade.
Previous plans for an estate at Allansford in conjunction with Moyne Shire fell over in 2008 after a geotechnical report showed the land was unsuitable.
Then about two years later a priority planning process instigated by former planning minister Justin Madden was scuttled and the land selection process had to be re-started.
“It’s been a long time to get this far,” Mr Anson said.
“I want to give special praise to our planning staff for their dedicated work.”