Councillor profiles - Mayor Ron Ismay Hindmarsh Shire Council

Article image - Councillor profiles - Mayor Ron Ismay Hindmarsh Shire Council Image courtesy of The Dimboola Banner.

Hindmarsh in western Victoria is bound by Wyperfeld National Park in the north and Little Desert National Park to the south. Our main towns are Nhill, Dimboola Jeparit and Rainbow with several small hamlets scattered throughout our 7,522 sq km.

My time in local government began prior to ‘the Kennett years’ (1990s) when I was elected to the now extinct Shire of Dimboola Council, and served a term as Shire President during my seven and a half years there.

I have been on Hindmarsh Council for six years and this is my second term as Mayor.

I run the hardware store in Rainbow that my grandfather established 92 years ago.

It was a passion for my local community that brought me to local government and an interest in the survival of our small towns.

Tourism is key
I am Chair of the Wimmera Mallee Tourism Association, a group that promotes tourism in Victoria’s wild west. We promote the region in ways that grow the visitor economy. We have a range of events on our annual calendar.

The Peter Taylor Memorial Night Barefoot Ski Jump on the Wimmera River at Dimboola will be a prelude to the World Barefoot Ski Championships in Sydney in April 2020. In its third year it is increasing in popularity each time.

Nhill offers visitors a unique bush experience stargazing, birdwatching, or photographing wildflowers at Little Desert Nature Lodge in Little Desert National Park. The facility has recently changed hands and we are keen to see how the new owners develop the venture. They have conference facilities, host weddings and have facilities for student excusions as well.

Developing the Wimmera District Discovery Trail Council attracted a $600,000 Federal grant and $400,000 from the State Government to boost Council’s $200,000. The hiking and cycling path will follow the Wimmera River from Dimboola to Jeparit, and highlight the area’s wealth of indigenous history and pristine natural environment.
Our next big event is the Rainbow Desert Enduro from August 9-11, Round Three of the BF Goodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championships. With a reputation as one of the most gruelling off road events on the Australian calendar, it brings 1200-1500 visitors.
This is the type of event needed to sustain our local economy. As the event grows in popularity, local camping and other accommodation options are developing around it.

Nhill’s aviation history, stretching back to before the second world war when its RAAF base housed 10,000 people, is being celebrated in November this year with the Nhill Centenary Airshow.

The Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre boasts a flying Tiger Moth and an operating Link Trainer – a circa 1939 flight simulator used to train pilots for night flying. The NAHC has a partially restored Avro Anson aircraft that committee members have spent thousands of volunteer hours restoring and following a massive community fundraising effort, have purchased a Wirraway aircraft. Both the Avro Anson and Wirraway were used during the Nhill Aerodrome’s time as an
RAAF base.

Developing markets
Nhill is well known for the success of its Karen refugee resettlement project. The Karen people now make up ten percent of the town’s population. They have enabled local business, Luv-a-Duck, to thrive, now processing 120,000 ducks a week.

The district is expanding into new markets, for example a local cattle feed lot, producing prime wagyu beef, has national and international interests discussing plans to expand.

Ahrens silo manufacturers have bought into the district taking over a competitor in the hamlet of Tarranyurk.

A Doppler weather radar, one of only 17 in Australia, will certainly put Rainbow on the (weather) map when it becomes operational in April 2020. Joint funding of $9.3 million from the Federal and State Governments means local farmers can expect huge returns. Reliable rain prediction enables farmers to select optimal times for spraying and fertilising allowing them to be more productive.

Rainbow will soon have its own beer. The Rainbow Brewery has the capacity to produce 800 barrels of beer a week making it more than just a homebrew hobby.

Our new Dimboola Library received $600,000 from the State Government matching Council’s $600,000 to create a multi-purpose facility with outdoor space for
community events.

Tyranny of distance
With so much happening across Hindmarsh Shire there is still plenty to do.

The smallest of our towns, Jeparit, is suffering the effects of depopulation as are many rural communities.

We feel the difficulty of attracting skilled workers in many fields like healthcare, teachers and council staff.

Technology is changing the world and we have to find ways to adapt.
Our customer service feedback tells us we are punching above the state average and our aim is to continually improve.

Personally, I would like to continue attracting new events to Hindmarsh. We need to attract tourists who will spend a few dollars in our towns. And I will keep advocating for better roads.