This year compared with this time last year we're 18 per cent up.Peter Thulborn
A perfect storm has resulted in a number of Mortlake businesses experiencing a surge in trade.
There are dozens of people staying in the town to work at Dundonnell wind farm, more travelling back and forth each day from as far as Warrnambool and Ballarat and the town's saleyards also brings a steady stream of visitors.
In addition to that, the town has built a reputation as the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat while en route to the Great Ocean Road or the Grampians.
Deli Fresh Cafe owner Peter Thulborn said Mortlake had become substantially busier in recent years.
"Mortlake has become a tourist town without being a tourist destination," Mr Thulborn said. "We're on the way to every destination. We're fortunate that we are located in a position where we get a lot of people travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne as well as the Great Ocean Road to the Grampians, which are now the two most visited destinations down the east coast of Australia."
Mr Thulborn said in addition to that there were dozens of people who dropped into his shop early to grab a bite for breakfast before heading to work at the wind farm.
"This year compared with this time last year we're 18 per cent up," he said.
Tri Mo Cafe and Asian Take Away owner Geraldine Edar, who has been open for 12 months, said she had seen an increase in business in the past six months.
She said in that period word had got out to people working at the wind farm that she was open. "It's been really good," she said.
"There's people travelling each day from Warrnambool, Camperdown, Lake Bolac and Ballarat."
However, the biggest issue the town has is a lack of accommodation options.
"People ask me all the time if I know of any places to stay," Ms Edar said.
Mortlake Roadhouse owner Dion Symons said an increased number of motorists were going through Mortlake on their way to Melbourne.
"A lot of people use this road now," My Symons said.
"They realise it's just as quick."
The employment opportunities in the area have led to a housing shortage and positive and negative outcomes.
On the one hand, property owners are fetching higher prices for their homes and are able to charge more for weekly rent - with companies looking for options for their employees. Property owners are also finding they can charge a higher price if they sell their home or rent it out fully furnished.
However, as a result of this there are other people who want to live in the town but are forced to look further afield due to higher prices and demand.
Charles Stewart property manager Rosemary McVilly said there was strong demand for rentals in Mortlake, Camperdown, Terang, Cobden and Derrinallum.
"We get a lot of inquiries regarding Mortlake but there's not a lot on offer," Mrs McVilly said. She said the large scale projects in the district helped boost the economies of small towns.
"The companies set up accounts in the town they're staying in so their workers can go to the local IGA or supermarket."
Ray White Rural Camperdown has also seen an increase in demand for rentals.
A spokeswoman said demand had steadily increased over the past few years.
She said people working on large projects were happy to stay in nearby towns.
"We've found the demand is consistent enough that all surrounding areas are enjoying the benefit/overflow of inquiry," she said.
One woman, who asked not to be named, said she was unable to remain living in Mortlake when the property she was living in went on the market.
"We have a dog but extremely good rental records and references so didn't even consider it was going to be difficult," she said. "I work in Mortlake and my partner works in Warrnambool so we wanted to find a happy medium area for us to commute from. I found out very quickly there were absolutely no rentals available close to my work area so we widened our search to Warrnambool and surrounds and found ourselves competing for every available rental with approximately 40 other people. We have a combined income of $200,000 and still were not able to secure housing."
The woman said they were forced to again widen their search and found a property in Port Fairy. "I now travel two hours return for every work shift and I'm now considering changing jobs due to the ridiculous amount of travel now required to attend work," she said.
Moyne Shire Council's chief executive officer Bill Millard said while there were no immediate plans to rezone land in or around Mortlake, the council was undertaking a study focusing on providing accommodation for workers.
Corangamite Shire mayor Neil Trotter said the demand had pushed up prices in a number of small towns. He said while it was good that occupancy rates of homes were high, the lack of available housing was a deterrent to people applying for jobs in the area.
Cr Trotter said one area where there was plenty of work available was agriculture. "I spoke to one farmer the other day who is looking to employ about 10 people but the lack of housing acts as an impediment," he said.
Cr Trotter said he believed the price of rentals had doubled due to the changed conditions. "You could probably get a rental for $180 to $200 but they're going for $300 to $400 now," he said.
Cr Trotter said the council hoped the government would consider investing in affordable housing in the shire. "We'd love to see the government putting funding towards housing for low income groups," he said.
Cr Trotter said he believed Simpson or Timboon would be ideal locations.
Corangamite Shire councillor Simon Illingworth has written to the government putting forward a case for low cost housing in Simpson and Timboon.
He said it was obvious the shire was heading for an acceleration of sustained population and economic growth. "There is an economic boom about to begin and we need to get ready," he said.
Cr Illingworth said some of the key drivers of the predicted growth were more than $1.2 billion to be invested on the coast in gas and tourism related projects in a short time and the increase in the number of visitors to the shire.
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