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Reprint: Upper King Valley future – Part 1

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This is the first in a series of reprints of opinion pieces published on the web prior to the development of Blogging software dating back to 1999. This one comes from the King Valley COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER – Published 11th February 2003

What Will Become of The Upper King Valley?
Part 1 … Retirement Village or Childrens Nursery … by Greg Naylor

For the purpose of this discussion, the Upper King Valley is defined as the area upstream of the Edi Cutting. Statistics show about 1000 people south of Moyhu with two townships, Whitfield (42 houses) and Cheshunt (15 houses). The rest of the upper valley is farm land with grapes, tobacco, beef cattle and dairy herds being the major industries. This area is not within 50 kilometres of a major service centre.

The Rural City of Wangaratta (RCoW) have released their plans for the next 20 years and they expect new housing to slow down with about 1300 new dwellings to be built between 2001 and 2021. With the ageing of the population, it is predicted that by 2031, Australia’s population growth will be negative.

So, what does the RCoW see for the Upper King Valley? In their document “Rural Residential and High Quality Agricultural Land Review” (2001), the RCoW analysed the growth in their rural towns. This document shows that the Whitfield township is building a new residence every 2.5 years whilst Cheshunt adds another dwelling every five years. The district population peaked in the 1920’s and has receded ever since with the loss of the Whitfield Railway and the Greta and Meadow Creek townships.

We are already suffering the consequences of an ageing population which is evidenced by the low number of babies being born in the valley. As properties are sold, they are generally being purchased by middle aged people, beyond child-bearing age, from other places. This is evidenced by the receding numbers attending our schools (Whitfield, Myrrhee and Edi Upper). We do not have enough children to warrant a high school of any sort, and the future may not be able to support all three primary schools that we currently have. There was only one prep enrolment at Edi Upper Primary School in 2003. At the Whitfield Primary School, there were none! If we are to rely on population growth, we are going nowhere. Unless we find a way to attract young families to settle in the Upper King Valley, the area will become a retirement village for the RCoW.

When we lose a school, we lose a community. Meadow Creek is a great example. When the school closed, the Moyhu Primary School inherited a photo of World War I soldiers who had attended the Meadow Creek Primary School. When that photo was taken, there were some 30 young men pictured. Community spirit demanded that the photographic record be taken. But what of Meadow Creek today? No school … derelict Community Hall … no community gathering place. It is as if Meadow Creek never existed. The key to survival is to attract young couples to settle in the valley and raise their families here.

What a task that would be with our lack of infrastructure! We would need some sort of incentive to attract young families to the valley. We would need to find them work, and that might be possible as the wine and tourism industries eventually develop. Public transport would be necessary to allow them to access the major towns and services. They would need housing too. We could approach Wangaratta Unlimited, the Economic Development arm of the RCoW, to investigate all those odd parcels of land that they have inherited with a view to virtually giving them away to young families to build homes on. Something like this could revitalise the valley, aid the local economy and make a major contribution to our future.

In the next part we will look at the local economy and look for some options.

Written by Greg Naylor

30 July 2008 at 10:00 am

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