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Regional Development Victoria

Ovens Murray Regional Partnership

Map of the Ovens Murray partnership regionOvens Murray Regional Partnerships Logo

Bordering New South Wales to the north and the Victorian Alps in the south and east, the Ovens Murray Regional Partnership area has a thriving tourism sector based on major attractions, including the Alpine National Park, ski fields, Lake Hume, the Murray River and Lake Eildon.

The region is strategically located on national freight and transport routes servicing Australia’s east coast, with good access to water, high-quality food and wine production, heritage towns, regional tourism assets and iconic tracks and trails. Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla are also strong manufacturing centres.

A triple-bottom-line approach to growth, embracing economic, social and environmental initiatives, is important to the region. The Ovens Murray Partnership is likely to look at expanding the local higher education sector, attracting and retaining skilled workers, services for ageing residents, support for business district revitalisation and the development of year-round alpine tourism.

Local Government Areas:

Email the Ovens Murray Regional Partnership

2017/18 Victorian Budget outcomes for Ovens Murray

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.

Ovens Murray Regional Partnership highlights include:

  • Funding for North-east cycling optimisation project, to increase cycling tourism
  • Funding for signalling and station improvements needed to run new trains on the North East Line.

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

Regional Assembly snapshot

The Ovens Murray Regional Partnership held their second Regional Assembly in Wodonga on 27 July 2017. The evening saw community members from all across the region taking part in shaping the future of the Ovens Murray.



Who are the Ovens Murray Regional Partnership members?

Irene Grant

Irene Grant – Chair

Irene Grant is an experienced board member and was an Administrator at the Rural City of Wangaratta from 2013 to October 2016. She is also a former Wangaratta Mayor and was Chair of the Australian Cities Group representing 30 municipalities across regional Australia. Irene holds a Master of Business Management. She is a strong and committed advocate for ‘provincial living’ who believes that regions have many assets and strengths, and offer great opportunities in tourism, arts and culture, the environment, sports and business..

Michael Gobel

Michael Gobel – Deputy Chair

Michael Gobel is an equity fund manager who has extensive experience in financial services and economic development, having provided strategic advice to business, boards, major investment funds and government authorities. He is Chair of the Hume Bank and a member of the La Trobe University Regional Advisory Board, in addition to other current and past community involvement. Michael has an in-depth understanding and commitment to the region.

Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett is Chief Executive Officer of Northeast Health Wangaratta and has previously held senior health executive roles in regional New South Wales and Western Australia. Margaret is passionate about community engagement, growing effective partnerships, fostering innovation and working across sectors to deliver better health services.

Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Wodonga TAFE and the Driver Education Centre of Australia.  He has over 30 years’ experience as a defence force officer and post graduate qualifications in leadership, science and technology, as well as industry experience in logistics and supply chain management.  Mark is passionate about growing regional participation in further and higher education, leading to successful employment outcomes.

Amber Gardner

Amber Gardner

Amber Gardner is Chief Executive Officer of Tourism North East. She has strong experience in alpine resorts and holds a Master of Marketing and Bachelor of Media and Communications. Having worked in regional tourism for over a decade, Amber is passionate about driving positive outcomes to the local visitor economy.

Regional Development Australia representative

Susan Benedyka Susan Benedyka
Susan Benedyka is a business owner with a primary focus on providing services in facilitation, community and stakeholder engagement, strategic planning and leadership development.  She has extensive board member experience in government, community and philanthropic bodies at the regional, state and national levels, and is a member of the Regional Development Australia Hume Committee. Her passion is regional development, and working across government agencies, business and community sectors to develop stronger, connected, more forward-looking regions.

Victorian Government representative

Nick Foa - Deputy Secretary, Housing, Infrastructure, Sport and Recreation in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
Nick commenced employment with State Government as the Executive Director, Local Government Victoria, following senior roles in local government as CEO of Brimbank Council and a Director at Maribyrnong and Maroondah Councils. He joined DHHS in 2014 as Deputy Secretary, Sport and Recreation Victoria, and in 2015 was seconded to the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources to head the Visitor Economy Review, before leading Tourism Victoria through their transition to Visit Victoria. Nick’s current portfolio encompasses delivering social housing, major health service capital works and sporting infrastructure at local and state levels.

Nick Foa

Local government CEOs

Brendan McGrath Brendan McGrath – CEO, Wangaratta Rural City Council

Brendan McGrath has been Chief Executive Officer at the Rural City of Wangaratta since 2014. He is also President of LGPro, the peak body for Local Government Professionals in Victoria. He recently joined the Board of Procurement Australia. His previous roles include six years as Chief Executive Officer at Indigo Shire Council, as well as senior roles at Mitchell Shire.

Patience Harrington Patience Harrington –  CEO, Wodonga City Council

Patience joined Wodonga Council in 2000 with extensive experience in planning, financial management, service delivery and evaluation.  She has a career-long history of fostering effective partnerships, forming strategic alliances and leading and developing teams. Through this experience, she has developed a sound knowledge of a range of sectors including all levels of government, the community and the economy and service areas.

Charlie Bird
Charlie Bird – CEO, Alpine Shire Council

Charlie is the CEO with Alpine Shire Council after joining Local Government in 2015.  Charlie is an environmental engineer with a diverse background.  He has been a truck driver, farmer, run his own consulting business, led a car-sharing operation in Melbourne and has nearly 20 years experience in the water, natural resource management and local government sectors.  Charlie enjoys working with people on complex and challenging problems to deliver outcomes for the community.

Greg Pinkerton – Interim CEO, Indigo Shire Council

Alex Green Alex Green – CEO, Mansfield Shire Council

Alex has been CEO at Mansfield Shire Council since August 2015.  Prior to this Alex was a Director for a South West Victoria Council for eight years, with responsibilities for the planning, coordination and oversight of community facilities and programs.  Previous to working in local government, Alex had extensive experience in land management roles across Victoria and NSW. He holds a Masters of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science.  Alex has a strong focus on delivering outcomes for the community locally and across the region.

Tony McIlroy
Tony McIlroy – CEO, Benalla Rural City Council

Prior to taking up the role as CEO of Benalla Rural City Council in 2003, Tony’s previous roles included Corporate Manager Finance and Information Services for Bayside City Council, Director of Finance and Administration and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Camberwell City Council. He has over 26 years senior management experience in the Local Government Sector and has led Project Management Teams in the planning and construction of major community facilities.

Juliana Phelps

Juliana Phelps – CEO, Towong Shire Council

Juliana has held the position of CEO at Towong Shire Council since May 2009, having joined the Council in 1999. Prior to this, she held a senior management position in the manufacturing sector based in Wodonga. Juliana is a Chartered Accountant, with experience in auditing private and public organisations. She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds a Bachelor of Business (Accounting and Economics) and a Masters of Business Administration. Juliana is also the Local Government CEO Representative for North East region on the Rural Councils Victoria Executive Committee.

© Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, State Government of Victoria

Last Updated: 13 November 2017