At the end of 2016, Ballarat Council asked the community to tell us its priorities for the four years of our term.
You told us you wanted Ballarat to be a city that is bold vibrant and thriving. From that feedback, we developed the City of Ballarat Council Plan 2017-21, a document that embodies this confident vision for our city and outlines our plans to achieve it.
This year marks the halfway point of the council plan, and it's worth pausing to ask: how are we tracking as a city against that vision? Across a range of measures, the answers are very encouraging indeed.
The council plan identified the need to grow jobs and investment to match present and projected population growth. Today, the Ballarat economy is in robust good health.
In 2018, the 8576 businesses registered in Ballarat contributed to an economic output that has continued to expand, from $12.7 billion in 2016 to $14.3 billion in 2018. This is in line with a long-term trend, with our economic output up 36 per cent since 2008.
Our housing market has sustained strong growth, with median prices rising from $320,000 in 2016 to $400,000 in the June quarter of 2019. That's despite strong headwinds in the broader housing market, and yet our housing remains affordable compared with metropolitan prices.
The number of new residents moving to Ballarat has continued to rise since 2016. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show Ballarat's population reached 107,325 in 2018. That's an increase of 13,824 since 2011, ranking Ballarat as the highest regional city for growth in Victoria.
We've also attracted significant state and federal government investment for key strategic projects.
Following proactive lobbying from the City of Ballarat and key organisations ahead of recent state and federal elections, the 2019-20 state budget included funding for several key projects including second stage works to Her Majesty's Theatre, Mars Stadium and the Ballarat Sports Events Centre, lighting for Lake Wendouree and Victoria Park.
In this term, council has worked through and completed many long-standing and complex issues, including the restoration and reopening of the Civic Hall. We've worked collaboratively with the state government to secure 1000 public sector jobs at the GovHub site in the Ballarat CBD.
We've supported the Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society on the relocation of the showgrounds to Federation University's Mount Rowan campus. We delivered our first active women and girls strategy to shift barriers to female participation in sport and approved a parking plan to deliver flexible and fair parking solution for our CBD.
The exciting projects already achieved ... demonstrate our commitment.
While all this paints a picture of a city brimming with opportunity, council is always mindful that harnessing the opportunities of growth should not come at the expense of Ballarat's distinctive qualities, like our built-form heritage and community facilities. The exciting projects already achieved from the council plan demonstrate our commitment to this aspiration.
Mars Stadium opened in 2017 and has hosted multiple AFL home and away and AFLW preseason matches, under 18 matches and local football finals on a surface rated as the best in the AFL.
The exciting BSEC stage one was completed in July and is already a key venue for community indoor sport and major indoor sports events. Her Majesty's Theatre will open its doors next month following extensive upgrade works. Ballarat Link Road stage one provides a vital connection for the Ballarat West Employment Zone to the Western Freeway and Lucas. New facilities at Lucas Community Hub and the Bonshaw Early Learning Centre, and the refurbished Sebastopol Library Community Hub have delivered vital facilities for residents.
That's just a sample of the great things already delivered from the council plan, but there's plenty more to come.
We've committed $15 million over three years to revitalise the Bakery Hill entrance to our CBD, including opening Bridge Street.
Ballarat library will get a $1.9 million upgrade, while the next stages of works at Civic Hall and Her Majesty's Theatre will build on the enhancements to both icons. We'll progress our urban forest action plan by planting thousands of trees across our city, getting us closer to a 40 per cent tree canopy by 2040.
While there is always more work to do, we'll continue to work with our community to deliver for a bigger, better, bolder Ballarat.
Cr Samantha McIntosh is mayor of the City of Ballarat