Baw Baw Shire joins gold rush to World Heritage bid

Baw Baw Shire will join 14 other local governments to pursue World Heritage listing by UNESCO as the most significant 19th century gold rush region in the world.

The Victorian Goldfields World Heritage listing bid is a partnership between 15 local governments who together represent over half a million people and embracing nearly 20% of the state of Victoria.

The bid seeks to achieve a World Heritage listing of a series of chosen sites to celebrate the history and heritage of Victoria’s varied gold rush regions. Expected to take five years or more to gain approval, if successful the bid would enshrine Victoria’s goldfields alongside the Sydney Opera House, Royal Exhibition Buildings and Carlton Gardens, Australian Convict Sites and the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape as Australian sites of world historical and cultural significance.

Baw Baw Shire Deputy Mayor and resident of Walhalla, Cr Michael Leaney, said “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has received strong backing from Federal and State Governments, including a pledge from the Victorian Government of $3.8 million in this year’s budget for World Heritage projects, including the Victorian Goldfields.”

“If successful, the World Heritage listing would ensure that the exemplars from Victoria’s 19th century gold-era sites are preserved to be enjoyed and valued by countless generations to come,” said Cr Leaney. “Having worldwide recognition and protection of many of the places that transformed Victoria from a sleepy rural outpost into a prosperous industrial community over 150 years ago would lead to improved interpretation, preservation and tourist visitation.”

The bid began with 13 shires from Central Victoria. Two more local governments, Indigo Shire and Baw Baw Shire, were recently added following a visit by a UK World Heritage expert who said that “Walhalla was the third most significant mining area in terms of the value of gold extracted” and that both “are important parts of telling the Victorian Goldfield story.” As a result, Walhalla joins a long list of sites from across Victoria’s goldfields that are being investigated for the possibility of World Heritage Listing. The process to identify which sites are ultimately put forward will take several years.

The campaign will see Baw Baw and Indigo Shires join the Central Victorian LGAs of Ararat Rural Council; Campaspe Shire Council; Central Goldfields Shire Council; City of Ballarat Council; City of Greater Bendigo Council; Golden Plains Shire Council; Hepburn Shire Council; Loddon Shire Council; Macedon Ranges Shire Council; Mount Alexander Shire; Moorabool Shire Council; Mount Alexander Shire Council; and Pyrenees Shire Council.

From the late 1840s through to the turn of the 20th century, the world went mad for gold. From Colorado to Canada, and South Africa to New Zealand, the tiniest glimpse of the yellow stuff could transform any rural backwater into a raging new metropolis as prospectors descended from every corner of the globe, each hoping to strike it rich. In just 50 years, more gold was mined across the planet than in the previous 3,000 years combined.

Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Cr Annemarie McCabe says the transformative effects of the World Heritage bid on the local economy could be profound.

“Key findings from local experts have shown how World Heritage listing could grow regional Victoria’s visitor economy significantly, with the returns continuing to increase each year,” she said. “By the 10th year following World Heritage listing, in comparison to business-as-usual tourism growth, projections show the potential for an additional 2.2 million new visitors to the regions and an additional $440 million spent in the local economies.”

“Growth in visitors related to the World Heritage bid alone could lead to 1,750 additional jobs, and regional income could increase by as much as $150 million annually.”

Patrons for the bid include former Victorian Premiers The Hon John Brumby AO and The Hon Denis Napthine AO. Both gentlemen have been involved and supportive of this project for many years and share a desire to have the Victorian Goldfields recognised globally as the world’s most profound, long-lasting and transformative 19th-century gold rush story.

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