Sitting at the very heart of the Ballarat West Employment Zone’s success is the ability for industry to efficiently access a host of transport options.
Remarkable figures such as 9000 new jobs and the capacity to generate $5 billion each year in economic activity were often quoted when the 400-hectare development was in its infancy, statistics driven by the space’s superior access to transport infrastructure.
Central to this was the development of a 24-hectare freight hub, a space which would efficiently link nearby road and aviation infrastructure to broad gauge rail.
Frustratingly for those wishing to cash in on the rail line, part of the freight hub funding has been secured for years. In 2013 the-then federal Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss unveiled $9.1 million for the key freight investment, cash which was due to be staged across four financial years.
Ahead of the 2018/19 state budget, the City of Ballarat council was asking for a $7 million investment from state Treasurer Tim Pallas to get the rail component of the precinct off the ground.
“It’s not a huge financial commitment in the scheme of things but it effectively opens up BWEZ to containerised rail freight,” City of Ballarat chief executive Justine Linley said of the ask.
Despite this being a repeated request, the calls have thus far fallen on deaf ears.
Of course, this request has come in tandem with another major transport cash grab in the region in the form of the Ballarat Link Road.
The $38 million first stage of that road is now open for business, but another $80 million extension is required to truly unlock its potential.
As of 2016 the state government and council were both promoting the take-up at BWEZ, with more than 320 of the 400 hectares available purchased.
However fast forward to July 2018 and just two businesses, Broadbent Grain and Kane Transport, have relocated to the space.
Politically, both sides have a clear incentive to ensure BWEZ is a success.
The land falls within the Ripon electorate narrowly held by Liberal MP Louise Staley, and the project kicked off under former Liberal Premier Denis Napthine.
However after four years under Labor, the incumbent government is looking for a good story to tell in Ballarat’s west, particularly given it has lost its incumbent advantage in the battleground of Wendouree.