Originally written by JAN LEISHMAN
A $5 MILLION multi-facted regional attraction likely to attract 36,000 visits annually is proposed in the Old Monivae Homestead development plan released this week.
The plan sees the homestead and surrounds developed into high class facilities incorporating a designer garden, boutique accommodation and a commercial vineyard.
Covering a 10-year period, the development is likely to employ up to 38 people in its construction phase and around 14 once it is operational.
Not only will it draw visitors from Melbourne, Adelaide and overseas, but it will offer a reception centre for people in the region and provide educational facilities, the report states.
It is seen as a boost for job creation, community and economic development, facilitating the emerging viticulture industry while strengthening and adding to the region’s existing tourism profile.
The plan was launched by Glenelg Water this week and manager Kevin Safe described it as having “great potential”.
The 410-hectare property was bought by Glenelg Water in 1994 for wastewater irrigation, but the homestead and its surrounding 10 hectares are seen as surplus to requirements.
The development plan, prepared by Essential Economics and William Boag architects, has looked at redevelopment of the property as a vibrant and viable visitor attraction.
A recent feasibility study showed the property was suitable for a 70-acre high-grade commercial vineyard for cool climate wines.
The three-pronged approach includes an innovative restoration of the homestead itself, together with the possibility of developing a high quality designer garden including walking trails around the property.
The commercial winery, which would eventually embrace cellar door sales and educational facilities, would be part of a private development with the land being subject to a long-term lease from Glenelg Water.
Boutique accommodation, which would be developed in the homestead grounds, together with the use of the homestead as a reception centre, would be part of the later stages of development and also involve private investment.
Mr Safe pointed out that the majority of the $4.95 million cost would be borne by private investment and grants.
“The homestead and land would be controlled by Glenelg Water the authority doesn’t want to see the land excised,” he said.
“We would retain ownership of the land, but offer a long-term lease which would encourage private investment.”
Mr Safe said the other message for people was that Glenelg Water would not be spending huge sums of money on Old Monivae.
“As the landowner, we will take the role of facilitating the development in conjunction with the shire and other relevent bodies,” he said.
The key development concepts for Old Monivae are:
Open home, garden
Focused on displaying the property and immediate environs as a significant example of early Victorian homestead life.
There would be a discovery walking trail taking in the homestead and landscaped garden, as well as site interpretation.
The gardening component would be rare in that it will not include a replica of the original gardens but be a contemporary design that is sensitive to the homestead and its era, and to be viewed as a significant sculpture in the landscape.
Supporting those developments would be a nursery retail outlet, potentially combined with glenelg Water’s advanced tree program.
Utilisation of the homestead as a venue for formal functions such as weddings would include a commercial catering kitchen which could also be used as a small-scale cafe servicing the needs of open home and garden visitors.
The development of a winery producing 100 tonnes of fruit annually will take around three or four years and the winery will need to accommodate estate-grown fruit as well as grapes from independent growers in the Henty region.
This development would require a private investment partnership with a long-term lease, of a minimum 40 years, to be negotiated.
The winery would have provision for education facilities and cellar door sales and during its five-year development time frame, would see visitor numbers growing from around 7000 to 17,000 annually.
This is proposed for later stages of the 10-year plan and a two-staged development is recommended.
It includes provision of at least a 40-bed boutique accommodation facility located close to the homestead.
A cost breakdown of the $4.95 million shows the homestead restoration at $1.45 million; landscaping and design of 1.2 hectares $1.5 million; commercial winery $1.1 million and accommodation development $900,000.
Mr Safe said the Old Monivae Advisory Committee had already advertised for expressions of interest in running the viticulture and winery side.
“The garden would be done through Heritage Victoria, and we would be seeking government funding for it and the restoration of the homestead,” he said.
The planners had placed a 10-year timeframe on it, but that would be totally dependent on funding, both private and government, he said.
“The relevant thing I see with it is that the report points out that the homestead by itself would never be a viable tourist attraction, and neither would just a viticulture/winery be a paying proposition on its own, but when put together, they work.”
Mr Safe said the advisory committee would be seeking out opportunities for funding options.
The committee will consider the expressions of interest in the winery at its next meeting in January.
“That will have a significant impact on the whole thing. If it goes ahead it would be leverage for the overall development and for government funding.”