Regional Development VictoriaRegional Development Victoria

State Government of Victoria


Central Highlands Regional Partnership

Map of the Central Highlands partnership region Central Highlands Regional Partnerships Logo


The Central Highlands Regional Partnership spans the east-west transport corridor connecting Melbourne, western Victoria and Adelaide.

The region’s bustling major centre, Ballarat, has the fastest growing population of any regional city in Victoria.

Capturing opportunities in agricultural industries, building on strategic advantages, including  its proximity to Melbourne, a diverse economy, outstanding natural and cultural tourism assets, addressing health challenges for a growing population and the quality of the region’s transport connections, are likely to be among the things tackled by the Central Highlands Regional Partnership.

Local Government Areas:

Email the Central Highlands Regional Partnership

2017/18 Victorian Budget outcomes for Central Highlands

State-wide Budget Investments benefiting regions:

Regional Victoria will share in a range of significant state-wide investments that address a range of Regional Partnership priorities including:

  • $29 million for priority initiatives by the Partnerships, as well as funding to enable more comprehensive engagement in each region and to undertake further development of regional priorities.
  • $45 million to the Connecting Regional Communities Program to support digital initiatives such as broadband trials, digital agricultural applications and blackspot minimisation.
  • $1.45 billion for upgrades to regional rail infrastructure across the state.
  • 25% reduction in the payroll tax rate for regional businesses – expected to benefit 4,000 businesses.    
  • $50 million to double the First Home Owner Grant to $20 000 for new homes in regional areas.
  • $1.7 million to re-establish the Victorian Rural Women’s Network (RWN) to promote women’s economic participation and professional development.

Central Highlands Regional Partnership highlights include:

  • $47.8 million to establish a Gov hub in Ballarat  
  • $39 million for Stage 2 of the Ballarat Line Upgrade, to deliver better services for Ararat

Find out more about the Victorian Budget 2017/18 outcomes for Victoria's regions

Regional Assembly snapshot

The Central Highlands Regional Partnership held their first ever Regional Assembly in Ballarat on 15 November 2016. Community members, local government and business representatives came together to discuss how to help the Central Highlands region reach its full potential.

Who are the Central Highlands Regional Partnership members?

George Fong

George Fong – Chair

George Fong is the Deputy Chancellor of Federation University Australia, Chair of Internet Australia, and a member of Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Community Consultative Forum, Maximising Ehealth Technology Working Group and Ballarat Health Services Foundation. In his private capacity, he is Executive Director of internet company Lateral Plains, based in Ballarat.

Jennifer Ganske

Jennifer Ganske – Deputy Chair

Jennifer Ganske is the Managing Director of Crossroads Farm Inc. and is a graduate of Leadership Ballarat and Western District, Leadership Graduate Program 2015.

Susan Honeyman

Susan Honeyman

Susan Honeyman is the Human Resources Manager at the FMP Group (manufacturing).   Susan is a Victorian Branch Councillor at the Australian Industries (AI) Group and the President of the Ballarat and Wimmera Regional Committee at AI Group. Susan is interested in making connections between Government, industry and research organisations to develop relationships and to promote innovation.

Tim Matthews

Tim Matthews has experience in the international pharmaceutical and communications industry and is currently a local business owner and Managing Director of The Forge Pizzeria.  Tim is the Deputy Chair of the Ballarat Business Centre. Tim‘s focus is building businesses in the area, assisting the regions local food and wine producers and also growing the high quality hospitality and tourism industry throughout the region.

Janelle Ryan

Janelle Ryan

Janelle Ryan is a communications and marketing specialist and is the owner of The Little PR Company. Janelle is also a Foundation Trustee at Art Gallery of Ballarat Foundation and a Learning Partner for Leadership Ballarat and Western Region.

Geoff Sharp

Geoff Sharp

Geoff Sharp is the Chief Executive Officer of United Way Ballarat, Ballarat Foundation and Volunteering Ballarat.  Geoff is a Director of Karden Disability Support Foundation Board, a member of the Central Highlands Primary Care Partnership, Co-chair of the Central Highlands Youth Area Partnership, and chairs the City of Ballarat Community Impact Committee. Geoff’s work and passion is in bringing together the various sectors of the community to address the challenges and achieve lasting improvements for all.

Mitchel Watson

Mitchel Watson

Mitchel Watson is the Director of the Daylesford and Hepburn Mineral Springs Co. and Hepburn Wind.  Mitchel specialises in social enterprise and is currently completing a Masters Business Administration.



Regional Development Australia representative

David Miller
David Miller has extensive experience in both local and state government with roles specialising in regional economic policy and cultural and community development. David is currently a member of the Regional Development Australian Grampians Committee and is on the boards of both Ballarat Health Services and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka.

Victorian Government representative:

Christine Wyatt - Deputy Secretary, Planning - Department of Environment Land Water and Planning

Local Government CEOs

Justine Linley

Justine Linley – CEO, City of Ballarat

Justine Linley was appointed Chief Executive Officer with the City of Ballarat in May 2016. Prior to this appointment Justine has held senior roles in higher education and local government, starting her career in local government with the City of Melbourne in the mid-1980s. Justine has served as CEO for Northern Grampians Shire Council and before that was the Regional Director for the Grampians Region, Regional Development Victoria, a position which saw her working with 11 councils, businesses and organisations from Bacchus Marsh to the South Australian border.
Justine has a commitment to regional co-operation and planning.

Andrew Evans

Andrew Evans – CEO, Ararat Rural City Council

Andrew comes to Ararat Rural City Council with over a decade of experience at the executive management level. Andrew has a diverse background in human resources, corporate services, community development and infrastructure.  Andrew has also had experience in the transport and electricity industries, and in the private sector. Andrew visited Ararat many times as he was growing up, and always loved the mountains and the lakes around the area.  Andrew is very proud to now be able to call Ararat home.

Rod Nicholls
Rod Nicholls – CEO, Golden Plains Shire Council

Rod Nicholls was appointed as the CEO of Golden Plains Shire in December 1994 after an already extensive 24 years of service in local government.  Over the past 22 years, Rod has transitioned the organisation through several stages of strategic evolution, as the growth in population, services and infrastructure requirements have expanded from 12,000 to 20,500 residents.  He was educated at RMIT in 1978 and Deakin University in 1999, completing a Diploma of Business Studies (Local Government) and a Graduate Diploma of Local Government Management respectively.  In 2002, Rod was awarded a Public Service Medal for his contribution to local government.

Aaron van Egmond – CEO, Hepburn Shire Council

Aaron Van Egmond spend 11 years with Towong Shire Council, prior to taking up the position of CEO with Hepburn Shire Council in May 2012. As Director of Development Services at Towong Shire Council, Aaron was responsible for economic development, tourism, local laws, planning, building, environmental health, as well as major projects. Prior to working in the Local Government sector Aaron worked in the construction industry both as a project manager and within his own businesses focused on construction, maintenance and property development.

Rob Croxford

Rob Croxford – CEO, Moorabool Shire Council

Rob Croxford has more than 35 years’ experience in local government, and has a strong background in financial management, community engagement, government advocacy, staff development and continuous improvement in service delivery. He commenced as CEO of Moorabool Shire Council in 2010. Rob has a Bachelor of Business (Local Government) and a Grad Cert (Marketing) and has completed the Fairley Leadership and Local Government Professionals Leadership programs. Rob has also received a medal for services during the Black Saturday 2009 fires.

Jim Nolan
Jim Nolan – CEO, Pyrenees Shire Council

Jim Nolan was appointed CEO of Pyrenees Shire Council in December 2014. He has 25 years’ experience in local government at Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Northern Grampians. Jim has experience across infrastructure, project delivery, community and economic development. As CEO, Jim is responsible for the day to day operations of Council, the delivery of the Council Plan and the implementation of Council decisions.  Jim also has direct responsibility for economic development and communications.




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Last Updated: 19 May 2017