The RDA Loddon Mallee committee drives prosperity by identifying and advocating for regional projects. From supporting development of the new energy sector to championing industry training needs, the committee brings investment to the region and creates jobs.
The Loddon Mallee RDA committee comprises members with expertise across our region’s industries and a deep understanding or how our communities’ function. The high calibre team has global, national and local experience in horticulture, agriculture research, mineral sands and rare earth mining, renewable energy, defence and machinery manufacturing, housing policy and planning. The Committee Chair, Linda Beilharz, OAM, is the Chief Flying Instructor at the Bendigo Flying Club and was the Executive Officer of Loddon Mallee Women’s Health. The Deputy Chair, Leonie Burrows is chair of the Mallee Research and Innovation Centre, a former CEO of Mildura Rural City Council and a board member of the Murray Primary Health Network (PHN).
Our Committee members
RDA Loddon Mallee Committee Chair
Linda Beilharz OAM is the Chair of RDA Loddon Mallee and has held the role since 2015 - advocating for economic growth in the region. With an extensive career in regional Victoria in social services and the health sector, Linda has a strong understanding of regional issues and opportunities across the Loddon Mallee region.
An avid flyer, Linda is currently the Chief Flying Instructor for the Bendigo Flying Club and the Vice President of the Victorian Branch Australian Women’s Pilots Association.
Prior to her appointment to Chair, Linda was Executive Officer of Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, a Director of Journeys for Learning and a founder of the Bendigo Sustainability Group, a community group focused on growing a sustainable future for Bendigo.
Earning the nickname, the ‘Icy Pole Lady’, Linda was the first Australian woman to successfully ski to both the North and South poles – each effort taking two months to complete - as part of a ten-year effort to journey across each of the world’s four largest icecaps (including Greenland and Patagonia).
From her exploration, Linda was awarded the Order of Australia Medal, elected Bendigo Citizen of the Year in 2013 and was also named the National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2010. Her commitment to health and wellbeing in the region saw her inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2006.
Linda lives in Bendigo with her husband and is an active member of the AlpineSAR as a specialist in snow and alpine search and rescue, and a member of the Bush Search and Rescue.
- Masters in Health Science, La Trobe University
- Graduate Diploma in Community Development, RMIT University
- Graduate Diploma in Special Education, University of Melbourne
- Bachelor of Education, University of Melbourne
Areas of expertise:
- Flight training and airport operations
- Regional planning
- Local government
- Community development
- Health and welfare services
- Local government
- State and federal government
- Community services
RDA Loddon Mallee Committee
Leonie Burrows - Deputy Chair
Committee Deputy Chair Leonie Burrows is a management consultant with much skin in the game when it comes to CEO roles and board experience in terms of Finance and Audit, Governance, Nomination and Remuneration, Risk and Project Management.
The Mildura-based businesswoman was Local Government CEO at Mildura Rural City Council and CEO of Citrus Australia, Australian Tablegrape Growers, Alliance of Councils for Rail Freight Development and Sunraysia Institute of TAFE.
Currently, Leonie is Chair of Sunraysia Community Health Service, Deputy Chair of the Murray Primary Health Network and Chair of the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre Strategic Advisory Panel. She has also served as Chair of Sunraysia Institute of TAFE, Chair of the Victorian TAFE Association and Chair of Lower Murray Water.
This is Leonie’s second term as a member, and she hopes to continue her passion and commitment to building resilient, sustainable and healthy communities across the region.
Craig is a Loddon Mallee local through and through, having lived in the region all his life.
He has tallied up 37 years experience working in local government in rural and regional settings and is an inaugural member of the Loddon Mallee RDA.
In all those settings, he has put to good use his Bachelor Business - Local Government, MBA and his Graduate of the Australian Institute Company Directors qualification.
As for business experience, Craig helped drive the water infrastructure upgrade to bring additional supply to the Boort Horticulture area and has form working on myriad Bendigo community infrastructure projects including Bendigo Airport, Dai Gum San, Dai Gum Loong, Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo Art Gallery, Edwards Street Carpark, Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre and Bendigo Stadium.
Devising a strategic plan to grow the regional economy is where he adds particular value. Craig is also a great networker, adept at making connections between RDA, Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnership and Local Government.
A Bendigo local, Damien is a pioneer in all things real estate.
In addition to being a property valuer and licensed estate agent with an Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) qualification, he’s also Managing Director of Birchgrove Property, a Bendigo-based business specialising in residential development.
Damien is the immediate Past President and a Board Member of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (Vic). He also serves as a Board member of Haven Home Safe, Bendigo Business Council - Be.Bendigo, Remembrance Parks Central Victoria and is President of the Bendigo Senior Secondary College Council.
For a decade now, he has been engaged with government in relation to population growth and affordable housing provision.
As an RDA committee member, such experience will be invaluable in helping to identify and support region initiatives that provide complementary opportunities for government funding.
New to the RDA committee, Dianne has lived in the region for most of her life and has been involved in the dairy and irrigation industries for well on 14 years.
During that time, she has provided advice to both state and federal governments: including the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) around water policy in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
Currently, Dianne is a Board Member at Cohuna Hospital and Chair of Murray Primary Health Networks Loddon Mallee community advisory. And previously, she held Board Member roles at North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA), Murray Dairy and the Loddon Mallee Community Leadership Program (CLLM).
She has an Advanced Diploma in Agribusiness Management, is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is the creator of the ‘Show Some Dairy Love’ Facebook group, which has over 20,000 members and helps drive mental health support and programs for the dairy region.
As a member, Dianne will be a voice for agriculture (in particular, dairy), and will bring insights about how water policy affects the region.
Dr Herbert Hermens
New committee member Herbert Hermens, who holds a Doctorate of Business Administration from Southern Cross University, moved to the Loddon Mallee region in 2008.
As a non-Executive Director in manufacturing, education and retail, he can add value to the committee through his finely-honed experience in strategic management, innovation and stakeholder connectivity.
His career to date demonstrates an aptness for corporate governance, risk management (including Audit & Risk Committees) and community – he has built up strong relationships in both the private and public sector.
Herbert’s primary focus as a member will be regional opportunity: to increase the value of living regionally. He can also share insights into how to leverage manufacturing and the arts – in particular, the performing arts – to build community harmony and support.
With qualifications in law, economics, public relations, business administration, finance, corporate governance and project management, Margot has chartered an extremely successful career in the public sector. She has held CEO roles in local government for the past eight years and prior to that, senior executive roles in the Victorian Government Department of Treasury and Finance.
As well, on the other side of the border, Margot worked as Murray Shire General Manager, guiding the organisation through its merger to become Murray River Council.
Currently, Margot sits on the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross Committee of Management and the Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnership. And previously, she was a Board member of the Riverine and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils, Mid-Murray Group of Councils and the Echuca Moama Tourism Board.
Robert Jardine has spent most of his life working in the Mallee in education, management and private business roles. A committee member of the Mallee Regional Partnership, he regularly facilitates discussion groups and is well versed in providing high level strategic planning through to grass roots community planning.
His immediate past employment with Regional Development Victoria (RDV) involved working with Buloke, Gannawarra and Swan Hill Councils, developing funding proposals and providing support during droughts and flooding.
Robert’s particular focus on the committee will be on ensuring development opportunities such as completion of the Murray Rail Project and improving supply chains across the Mallee are realised, as efficient transport links from the region to capital cities and ports are vital to its ability to be competitive and attract skilled workers.
Geoff Kelly is a media trailblazer. He has spent over three decades publishing regional and rural newspapers across Northern Victoria and Southern New South Wales, with the last 25 years being based in Echuca Moama with responsibility for a number of titles including The Riverine Herald .
During his newspaper career, Geoff served on many industry bodies including two years as President of Victorian Country Press and two years as Victorian delegate to Country Press Australia. Post retirement, Geoff is not showing any signs slowing down. He has continued his community involvement and served as the inaugural Chair of Murray Regional Tourism Board, is current Chair of Echuca Regional Health, current Chair of Committee for Echuca Moama and a board member of Echuca Moama community enterprise.
Geoff has a keen interest in helping small business adapt to new market challenges via innovation, upskilling and market development. He also appreciates how Loddon Mallee agriculture and tourism contribute to the economic viability of the broader area.
As well, he has a passion for breaking down the red and green tape cross border anomalies which have a big impact in border communities .
The committee coordinates the alignment of regional investment. It engages across agencies, industry bodies and the private sector to leverage and coordinate regional effort and influence state and federal government policy. It supports economic growth by facilitating access to data and knowledge, and creates regional alliances, partnerships and networks to support public and private investment.
The Loddon Mallee region is positioned to capitalise on energy, advanced manufacturing and intensified agriculture production. The committee is working with the region to drive and leverage investment for:
- Improved Digital connectivity - including business-grade broadband to support the uptake of the Internet of Things to automate farming and food processing.
- Renewable energy projects - through the expansion of solar farms and emerging hydrogen industries.
- Agriculture, beverage and food production supply chain opportunities.
- The development of an international tourist brand to capitalise on Bendigo becoming a UNESCO Creative City of gastronomy and seeking World Heritage listing for the Central Victorian Goldfields and the Grampians region.
- Local TAFE and universities to align training with industry needs to address a lack of skilled labour in the region.
The value of being embedded in Regional Development Victoria
“It supports our ability to work collaboratively with the Mallee and Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnerships and the region’s 10 municipalities to develop economic growth strategies with shared objectives. It supports access to state government specialist expertise to support considered decision making.”
- Linda Beilharz, Loddon Mallee RDA Chair.
The RDA Loddon Mallee committee collaborates with businesses, not-for-profits, industry bodies and agencies to build sector strengths, promote regional capabilities and leverage regional advantages. We work with:
- Local Federal Members of Parliament
- Loddon Mallee local government areas of Buloke Shire, Gannawarra Shire, Central Goldfields Shire, City of Swan Hill, Campaspe Shire, City of Greater Mildura, City of Greater Bendigo, Loddon Shire, Macedon Ranges Shire and Mount Alexander Shire.
- Regional organisations including Mildura Regional Development, Be.Bendigo, Committee for Maryborough and Committee for Echuca-Moama.
- Like-minded Regional Committees including the Loddon Campaspe and Mallee Regional Partnerships
- RDA Committees across Victoria and RDA South Australia and NSW border committees.
- 342,164 population in Loddon Mallee Region.
- $17.013 billion Gross Regional Product for the Loddon Mallee Region
- 129,417 jobs in the Loddon Mallee region.
- Healthcare and social assistance, retail and manufacturing are Loddon Mallee’s three largest employment sectors.
Loddon Mallee has two diverse regional economies. Anchored by the City of Mildura the northern region has horticulture, dairying, broad acre cropping, mineral sand and rare earth mining and renewable energy sectors. The Murray River is a tourism drawcard and the north west corner is an entry point to Australia’s outback. Emerging northern tourist attractions include the Silo Art Trail and Lake Tyrrell.
The City of Bendigo is in the more densely populated southern part of the region which has a strong defence, machinery and food manufacturing base. Advances in technology are shaping the future of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in both regions with the Internet of Things and greater cohesion within supply chains delivering efficiencies. Major growth is expected along the Regional Employment and Innovation Corridor which runs between Gisborne through Bendigo to Echuca.
Other significant employers across the region are healthcare and social assistance and financial and insurance services. The Calder and Sunraysia Highway are major freight routes providing access across the region to markets and ports.
Significant State and Commonwealth government investment in the region include the Bendigo GovHub and new Law Courts. In the north Mildura, Swan Hill, Koondrook and Echuca have received funding to enhance their frontages to the Murray River..
Seizing economic opportunities
Photographic opportunities created by the reflective shallow saltwater of Lake Tyrrell in Victoria’s north west made it a social media hit in 2015.
The Loddon Mallee RDA capitalised on the unexpected Asian tourist interest in Lake Tyrrell located north of Sea Lake and a four-hour drive from Melbourne. It worked with Buloke Shire Council and Advance Sea Lake Inc. to engage the community, indigenous groups, businesses and local and state government departments to develop a strategy to protect the lake’s environment and deliver a tourist experience that encouraged overnight stays and spending within the Sea Lake community.
The committee provided funding for the Lake Tyrrell Tourism Strategy which identified the economic potential of the unique attraction with its 42,000 annual visitors projected to grow to 192,000 over 10 years. This analysis drove the development of the $3.575 million Lake Tyrrell Infrastructure Project. Regional Development Victoria’s Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund provided $2.805 million for project which includes a viewing platform, board walk, walking paths, toilet facilities, landscaping, car and bus parking facilities with a bus turning circle and a new turning lane to Lake Tyrrell from the Calder Highway.
International interest in the lake has underpinned Sea Lake’s development as an emerging tourist destination being part of the northern Victoria Silo Art Trail. Over the past five years the town has transformed with an art gallery and the local pub, the Royal Hotel being brought by 30 locals and fully refurbished.
Influencing policy decisions - Hydrogen and renewable energy
Identifying the economic potential of hydrogen and renewable energy in the Loddon Mallee is the focus of research commissioned by the Loddon Mallee RDA and the Mallee Regional Partnership.
Energy and carbon advisory service provider Energetics Pty Ltd will analyse local, national and international hydrogen markets to advise on the opportunities and constraints in developing a green hydrogen energy sector in the Mallee.
The work will inform the development of a Mallee Hydrogen Roadmap which aims to capitalise on the region’s fast-growing solar energy sector with 19 large-scale solar projects underway. With a combined energy capacity of 2380 MW these projects exceed the capacity of Victoria’s largest coal fired power station Loy Yang. In addition, a further 13 solar farms producing 2,950 MW are being planned for the region.
A steering group comprising academic, business and regional representatives are overseeing the development of the green hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water using a renewable energy source.