If you’re in south-west Victoria, it doesn’t take long for a local resident to start telling you why they love where they live.
Setting aside the bugbear of the poor roads, with its beautiful coastline, plentiful jobs and high quality education and health care, it’s easy to see why.
With Warrnambool scoring higher than Geelong on recent liveability rankings, and offering better housing affordability and unemployment rates than Melbourne, some leaders want it to secure a city deal to bolster its capacity to develop as the wider region grows.
Geelong just signed a memorandum of understanding for a city deal, which will pave the way for all three levels of government to work together to further the city’s prospects, however, a similar deal looks to be a long way off for a place like Warrnambool. Some are asking why.
Warrnambool City Council's director of city growth, Andrew Paton, said getting a deal would be “terrific”, but the criteria under the federal government initiative excluded smaller regional cities.
“We would be strongly advocating for city deals to focus on all regional cities that play a significant economic role in the region,” he said.
“Warrnambool is a big part of that because we continue to experience economic growth and we know the model in Melbourne is not sustainable, and it’s materially impacting lifestyle and liveability. Warrnambool has that in spades.”
Mr Paton said decentralisation encouraged investment in regions.
“(A city deal) provides greater certainty for regional cities to plan for growth and infrastructure and services, and all tiers of government working together is bound to generate a better outcome,” he said.
City deals have been set up for Townsville and Launceston, while Hobart, Western Sydney and Geelong will soon join them.
A report just released by market research company IPSOS ranked Warrnambool and the south-west the second-most-liveable region in Australia based on criteria including affordable, decent housing and a strong sense of community, while a Regional Cities Victoria liveability index report gave the south-west hub the highest ranking when compared with Melbourne.
Warrnambool’s median house price sits around $344,000 – lower than the regional Victoria median of $397,000 – and far below Melbourne’s median price of $821,000, Real Estate Institute of Victoria Data shows.
In December 2017, Warrnambool and the south-west recorded an unemployment rate of 2.3 per cent, well below the rate of 5.9 per cent recorded in greater Melbourne for the same period.
South West Coast MP Roma Brtinell said decentralising Victoria was a strong focus for her party.
The MP said the region would benefit from Geelong’s city deal, with support for improving the Great Ocean Road through the Shipwreck Coast Masterplan.
Second-most liveable area
A new study has revealed Warrnambool and the south-west is the second-most liveable region in Australia and number one in Victoria.
In November 2017 IPSOS, asked 10,188 Australians to select the top five attributes that they believed make somewhere a good place to live.
It also asked respondents to rate how well the state and local area performed against all 16 liveability attributes.
The Life in Australia 2017 report shows Victorians selected feeling safe, affordable, decent housing, high quality health services, access to the nautral environment and a strong sense of community as the most important attributes.
Warrnambool ranked the highest in all of those indexes, and also topped the rankings in 13 out of the 16 overall attributes towards optimum liveability.
Feeling safe garnered a 7.6 score out 10, a strong sense of community was ranked 8/10 and access to the natural environment was given an 8.7/10.
Warrnambool and the south-west consistently ranked higher than the regional Victoria average, which included Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
Warrnambool City Council mayor Robert Anderson said the results showed the region offered something to be proud of.
“The findings of this recent survey is further evidence that our city and region is the envy of the state and nation for lifestyle and liveability,” Cr Anderson said.
“Liveability can mean different things to different people and to perform so strongly against all the attributes, and in a national context, really does make our city a great place to live.”
The most liveable region in Australia was the Murray area in New South Wales.
Western and North Western Tasmania ranked third and the Australian Capital Territory fourth.
Geelong, the next Victorian city, came in at number twelve.
Ranked last was outback Western Australia.
Warrnambool also ranked number one for liveability in the state in 2016.
The data backs up what the Regional Cities Victoria (RCV) liveability index report showed as reported by The Standard earlier this month.
While Melbourne may wear the official crown, the Regional Cities Victoria (RCV) liveability index report, which compared 10 Victorian regional cities to Melbourne, showed Warrnambool had the highest ranking out of all the councils.
The themes for that study included housing affordability, local amenities, nature-based attractions, social capital, physical capital and health and safety.
‘Nature’s wonders’ right at our doorstep
New Warrnambool resident Dale Camm has more hours to enjoy his day now he no longer has a lengthy commute.
Mr Camm, who describes himself as “Melbourne born and bred”, has been calling the regional city home since last October after taking on the role of ANZ regional executive for south-west Victoria, and his partner and children aged six, four and two will soon join him.
He said he appreciated how organised Warrnambool’s numerous events were.
“In Melbourne if I want to do something with them, I’ve got to travel, there’s the time constraint, there’s the cost, whereas here it’s just a lot more accessible,” Mr Camm said. “At our doorstep we’ve got a whole heap of nature’s wonders.”
He said his kids were amazed being so close to the beach.
Mr Camm said his morning routine was very different in Melbourne, where he would commute for at least an hour and 15 minutes and had to wake up at 5.30am to fit in dropping his kids at child care.
“Here I get up at 6am, go for a run, get ready and I’m in the office by 7 to 7.30am. I’ve driven by the beach on the way in, hopefully the sun in shining, and it just puts you in a different mindset.”
The young dad said his family wants Warrnambool to be home long-term.
“I’ve really fired up my Twitter account, posting photos to show other people what I’m doing after work,” Mr Camm.
“When was the last time they left work and went and jumped in the water?”