By Graeme Kemlo
If we thought we had it tough with our occasional border lockdowns, think about Mildura, which at one stage last year found itself locked out of New South Wales (NSW), South Australia (SA) and also unable to travel down to Melbourne.
But its geographic position near tri-state borders has also been an advantage in providing a convenient place for business events to be held “mid-way” between the rural city 640 km from Melbourne, 800 km from Canberra and 395 km from Adelaide.
This city of almost 54,000 on the banks of the Murray River is capital of the Sunraysia, home to farming, irrigated horticulture (table grapes, wine grapes, dried grapes, citrus and vegetables) and in normal times enjoys a healthy visitor economy. It is also an emerging centre for renewable energy and aquaculture, mineral sands and recycling. As such it has attracted scientific conferences and association gatherings from many sectors of the economy.
Mildura’s events and projects coordinator, Sara Wrate, is looking to re-engage with the business events sector post-COVID and has gone on the front foot with a new 2021 Mildura Business Events Guide.
While the city usually hosts events from 5 to 500, Sara said current restrictions limit their maximum meeting size to about 300, based on the Mildura Arts Centre having a 444 capacity theatre-style.
“We don’t have a major convention centre like some other regional cities, but we are well positioned to host about 300 and to accommodate them all close by in the city,” she said.
Although the cancellation of the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) this month was potentially an opportunity lost to reconnect with meeting and event planners and PCOs, she said the council was taking steps to encourage delegates and their families to visit.
“Council was offering event funding and support for business events that engage with our local community and provide at least $50,000 in economic benefit to our local economy,” she explained, adding that there were certain criteria to be met. Sara said Mildura had a range of business partners who provide professional services to the conferencing and events sector.
Pre and post-event options abound in Mildura with its food bowl, unique access to the Murray River and historic features that include the establishment of the first irrigation settlement in Australia by Canada’s Chaffey brothers in the 1880s.
Mildura is also a base for modern day explorers to visit the local salt lakes, including a pink lake and Mungo National Park which has evidence of Aboriginal occupation over 50,000 years. It is home to Mungo man, Australia’s oldest indigenous man. It is an interpretive day trip from Mildura into the nearby Willandra Lakes region of NSW.