Penny Spoelder | Specialist Consultant 

Best of the best: That’s the lofty standard for making the World Heritage List. Nations around the world lobby hard to get their precious places, glorious buildings, wilderness, and historic ruins on the list. That stamp of approval is perceived to bring prestige, tourist income, public awareness and most importantly, a commitment to save the irreplaceable.

The Central Goldfields Region in Victoria deserves to make the list. Victoria’s Central Goldfields region is the world’s largest and most intact 19th century gold rush landscape.[1] Covering an area of around 40,000 square kilometres (17% of Victoria), and with a current population of around half a million people, the region is home to over 40 historic cities, towns, settlements, and rural landscapes.

The City of Greater Bendigo and City of Ballarat are currently leading a campaign on behalf of 13 councils across the Goldfields region to inscribe significant gold rush-era sites on the World Heritage list, as a way to strengthen the region’s economy and create new jobs.

An Economic Benefit Assessment, prepared by TRC Tourism and MCa consultants found that being unscripted on the UNESCO World Heritage List also has the potential to accelerate regional recovery and provide long term economic, social and cultural benefits for the Central Victorian Goldfields region.

Our findings highlight how a World Heritage listing will grow the visitor economy progressively over time, with the return continuing to increase each year. By the 10th year following World Heritage listing, in comparison to business-as-usual tourism growth, there would be:

  • An additional 2.2 million new visitors to the region
  • An additional $440 million spent in the local economy
  • Growth in visitors related to the World Heritage bid alone will lead to 1,750 additional jobs
  • Regional income (direct and indirect wages, salaries, and profits for business) would have increased by $150 million.

Growth in overnight visitor numbers will create demand for additional accommodation, both hotel and family type. This increase in accommodation will occur progressively over time and is estimated that it will need $570 million total investment. This accommodation will provide a long-term foundation for the tourist industry and will service the market for many years beyond the first decade following World Heritage listing.

Increased investment will also improve local quality of life and provides an opportunity to attract new residents as a place to live and work. In an Australian, first TRC partnered with Planet Happiness to survey the Central Goldfields community on what they value most about their community and their sentiments about tourism. The survey was based on the Happiness Index, a peer-reviewed and OECD recognised best practice measure of wellbeing of communities.

The survey results highlight important insights about the community, their feelings about tourism and opportunities for the region. For example, when asked about the sense of belonging in the community (which is also one of the highest leverage points for happiness) the initial results indicate that residents feel there is room to improve the sense of community, the feeling of belonging and importantly how tourism promotes their local culture and the social benefits that can be derived.

The 13 Central Victorian Councils behind the bid continue to advocate to the Victorian Government for funding to select a small number of sites across the region that are considered the most exceptional examples of goldfields heritage and developing a Sustainable Tourism Master Plan to identify strategic investment, including the creation of World Heritage journeys to disperse tourists and spread the benefits to communities throughout the region.

The bid would ultimately need to be signed off by the Federal Government before being presented to UNESCO for consideration.

TRC and MCa are proud to have worked on the project and wish the City of Greater Bendigo and City of Ballarat, and the 13 councils across the Goldfields region success with the inscription.


[1] Central Victorian Goldfields: proposed Statement of Outstanding Universal Value by Barry Gamble, 2021