PICK OUR PROJECT! LMW manager Communications and Engagement, Leesa Merrett, Cultivator Inc. chair Mark Haynes and Merbein Historical Society president Bernadette Wells are urging the community to get behind their Community Art Trail Pick My Project application. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

THE Victorian Government’s ‘Pick My Project’ initiative has caused quite a stir in Sunraysia, with community groups, businesses and everyone in between putting their projects forward in an effort to securing funding.

A staggering 29 local projects are in the running to secure a share of $30million as part of the scheme, with the aim being  to transform our  local community.

In a first, successful projects will be granted funding based on their popularity, with residents aged 16 and over able to vote for their favourite ideas. 

All voters have to do is visit pickmyproject.vic.gov.au, register and select their local community by searching for their street address or suburb. Project ideas with the most votes in each area will be invited to enter into a funding agreement, with between $20,000 and $200,000 available for each project idea. 

Voting is open until 5pm Monday, September 17. 

Vying for $200,000 as part of the initiative is a project to develop a Community Art Trail in Merbein – a joint venture between Lower Murray Water (LMW) and the Merbein District Historical Society.

The Art Trail aims to give people the opportunity to share their story, culture and heritage through art, with a primary focus on bringing people together to learn new skills, share ideas and put Merbein “on the map”.

LMW manager Communications and Engagement, Leesa Merrett, said the trail will celebrate creativity, innovation, people and stories, and embrace our region’s lifeblood – water.

“The walking trail will follow the decommissioned irrigation channel route along Channel Road in Merbein,” she said. “As part of the Sunraysia Modernisation Project, seven kilometres of channel was replaced with pipeline in 2016. 

“We now have vacant land as part of our easement which follows the path of the pipeline, which we would like to see become a community space for everyone to enjoy.”

Safe walking trail

Ms Merrett said the trail would also provide “a safe and interesting community walking trail linking areas within Merbein for school students, tourists and the community to view large outdoor artworks inspired and created by the community.” 

Interactive signage linking the artworks and telling the story behind each one will also be installed along with solar lighting. Merbein P-10 College students will also be involved in the process.

“The local community has already shown great support for the project, with many passionate locals wanting to be involved,” Ms Merrett said. “This project will be very much by the people for the people.”

Merbein resident Lynette Rattray said the project will give the community “something to be very proud of.” 

“To be able to shape our community and showcase small regional towns on the national stage is a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “It also has the potential to give the region a boost through tourism.”

Merbein Historical Society president Bernadette Wells said the project will offer the broader community and local students an opportunity to learn new skills with the potential to generate jobs while increasing tourism to the region.

“This is a wonderful community project for Merbein,” she said. “The historical society has partnered with LMW on a number of projects in the past, and we’re happy to be partnering with them again.”

Co-operation the key

Ms Merrett said that collaboration and co-operation would be the key to the project’s success, with the community not only generating ideas but participating in the development of the artwork with guidance from local designer and artist Mark Haynes, who is also chair of not-for-profit group Cultivator Inc.

Mr Hayes said the community would be engaged to participate in an ideas workshop to help create artwork.

“The idea behind the workshop is to allow people to get their thoughts out there,” he said. “From there we’ll collate ideas into a design.”

If successful in the public voting process, it is expected the project will commence in December 2018. 

LMW and the Merbein Historical Society will host several events over the next few weeks, kicking off with a community barbecue next Friday, August 31, from 3pm at the corner of Channel Road and Ranfurly Way.

The barbecue will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the Community Art Trail concept.

A further community information meeting will also be held at the Merbein Club from 6pm on Wednesday, August 29.

More information about the project is available online via LMW’s website and social media platforms.