Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre

Description of Project

The Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre project will deliver a town centre that Manjimup Recreation Plaza will be vibrant, functional and an investment attractive location. The project elements focus on vehicle, cycling and pedestrian linkages; development of unique multipurpose attractions; creation of an investor ready accommodation site; creation of a food and beverage precinct, upgrading of town infrastructure, removal of non-operational rail infrastructure, increased car parking and general infrastructure beautification / improvement works. 

The ambitious $32.9M project was split into two stages with the first stage comprising $5.9M public investment being completed in April 2016. Stage 2 of the project commenced in June 2016 and is due for full completion in December 2019. The primary objective of the overall project is to drive private investment and create jobs which will create medium to longer term population growth detailed by the aspirations of the Manjimup Town Site Growth Plan. Funding partners so far in the project include the State Government, Federal Government, Shire of Manjimup, Main Roads Western Australia, Lotterywest, Real Insurance and private enterprise.

Key Economic Development Objectives

Manjimup has always been a regional service town benefitting from nearby communities feeding into the local economy. With the significant decline of the predominant timber industry and subsequent reduction in local jobs, a fragmented agriculture sector, ageing and unattractive infrastructure in Manjimup, the digital age impacting on retail, and a declining ageing population, the Shire seized the initiative through an innovative economic development focussed role to revitalise and grow.

Manjimup benefits from a range of natural and built competitive advantages and derives opportunities in both foundation and emerging industries, which underpin strong potential for economic and population growth. However the ability for the diverse community to access competitive advantage and leverage opportunity is at best what could be described as not integrated or focussed. To address this, in 2012 the Shire of Manjimup in partnership with the WA State Government set about a process to produce the Manjimup Townsite Growth Plan to provide a high level strategic blueprint with an ambitious ultimate objective to double the population of Manjimup by 2030.

Whilst the Manjimup Townsite Growth Plan specifically focussed on the necessary infrastructure required to cope with doubling of Manjimup’s population by 2030, targeted economic development opportunities were identified to drive population growth. These included the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre project and other initiatives in the agricultural and aged communities sectors to access competitive advantage in the region to create jobs and leverage private investment as these outcomes were identified as fundamental to achieve medium to long term population growth.

Critical Success Factors

  • Measurable short to medium critical success factors are job creation and growth plus direct commercial investment in Manjimup.
  • Measurable medium to longer term critical success factors are significant population growth.
  • Other critical success factors that are difficult to measure include creating a vibrant and functional town centre that is both attractive to residents and visitors, and ensuring that Manjimup has adequate support services to operate as a true regional centre.

Results Including Measurable Outcomes

The construction phase of the Manjimup Town Centre Revitalisation Project has already provided a significant benefit to local and regional businesses in the areas of building construction, infrastructure construction, supply of goods and services, transport and earthmoving. Stage 2 of the project will continue to benefit local and regional businesses as it is delivered to the Manjimup community. 

South West Energy Experience constructionThe operational phase has benefitted existing retail businesses, created significant investment in Manjimup incorporating 188 new ongoing jobs. Stage 2 is expected to vastly improve town centre vibrancy and retail viability, increase jobs, increase investor confidence and drive increased visitation to the area. The existing community also benefits from the improvements through increased liveability, more jobs, better services and enhanced lifestyles.


Stage 1 Outcomes

Direct investment:  During the construction phase of Stage 1, the project generated $11.7 million in local gross value added and 66 jobs. The public investment of $5.9 million into the Stage 1 of the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre project encouraged private businesses to invest $18.7 million. This private sector investment has directly resulted in 188 total new jobs (both direct and indirect) as well as adding a total of $21.2 million into the local economy, which represents 4.4% of the current total economy.

New jobs: If the most current Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates are taken into consideration there are 4,286 total employees by industry recorded in the Shire of Manjimup. Given that the Shire of Manjimup covers an area of 7,028km² and has four town sites and multiple settlements (Manjimup town site contains only approximately 50% of the overall 9,404 population), employment percentage increases arising from the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre Project for Manjimup town site alone would be somewhat understated by the following statements:
  • Stage 1 represents an overall percentage increase in employment of 4.3% across the Shire of Manjimup district;
  • If Stage 2 projections are correct an overall percentage increase in employment of 7.5% will eventuate across the Shire of Manjimup district; and
  • The actual and projected percentage increase in employment across the Shire of Manjimup district from the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre Project will equate to 11.9%.
Increased business confidence: The Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre has greatly increased business confidence in Manjimup. For many years, Manjimup has suffered from the continual decline of the timber industry, which had long been the foundation for the economy. Numerous stakeholders consulted for this project described the incredible lift in business confidence that the current works of Stage 1 had meant for the area. Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce have highlighted that most businesses are very optimistic about the future, largely due to these works. 

Potential increase in population: Consultation with local real estate representatives has highlighted that through the revitalisation works, the town will be more attractive to both families and other future residents that may move to the region. Consultation with some stakeholders indicated that their move to the local area was strongly influenced by the initiative and the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre project. Census trends from 2011 to 2016 have arrested a sharp decline projection in population to an increase in population during the reporting periods.  

Increased population for the region and increased business confidence: The reach of the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre project goes beyond the borders of the town and the Shire of Manjimup. There are a variety of people that work in Manjimup but live in adjacent areas, such as the Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes. Equally, the initiative has not only increased business confidence in Manjimup but also in nearby Pemberton, Bridgetown, and Nannup where there have been investments in new and refurbished retail premises. Beyond the potential for population growth in Manjimup, there would also be potential for population growth in the broader region stemming from this project. 
Adventure Playground
Increasing tourism and visitor expenditure: Historically, Manjimup had few facilities to offer visitors travelling through the region. The initiative has produced a variety of new tavern, restaurants and cafes as well as a refurbished motel. As part of the Stage 2 of the project, a site will be prepared for a future hotel investment. Additionally, the Manjimup Heritage Park will be transformed into a multi-purpose attraction. Early signals from the new adventure park (added as part of Stage 1) are encouraging with a peak of 200 people per hour coming to the park. Through this project, Manjimup can greatly increase its offering for visitors, which will provide a significant boost in tourism locally, providing a considerable injection of new visitor expenditure in the town. 

Increased services: The initiative has resulted in an increase in local services through various businesses entering the market. Healthcare services, retail services and others have increased for the local community. Through the location of the Southern Forests Medical Practice to Manjimup, many more physician positions are now available to the community. 

Marketing value: The initiative has resulted in considerable media and positive press for the town, which has provided considerable marketing value. This media is compounded through the experience of local and new residents who share their experience about the town with others, providing considerable flow-on marketing to other people and small businesses. Many business people often travel through Manjimup and now will also have an augmented experience that they can share with others. 

Recognition: In October 2017 National Awards for Economic Development Excellence the Shire of Manjimup was awarded the award for “Economic Development Initiatives Under 15,000 Residents” for Stage 1 of the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre Project.

Key Learnings

As part of the strategic planning and business case production for both stages of the Revitalisation of Manjimup’s Town Centre Project the Shire of Manjimup undertook extensive research and used collective professional experience to understand and overcome barriers including identifying strategies to mitigate potential issues arising in project implementation. An approach to ensure that the project delivery is not only successful but also met the organisation’s objectives once operational, has and will continue to be at the forefront of project delivery until full completion in 2019.

Community Consultation: A Community Reference Group (CRG) was established as part of the Manjimup Townsite Growth Plan process. The CRG was a formal advisory committee of Council comprising of 31 community members. The CRG membership was derived from a robust nomination process and included a diverse range of representatives from industry and not for profit sectors plus community leaders and many others from Manjimup. The role of the CRG was to provide input into, review and feedback on the growth plan development. In addition to the CRG the Shire established a Steering Group to oversee the development of the growth plan. This group comprised key stakeholders from the State Government including utility providers, service sectors, infrastructure providers and other relevant agencies.

Point of Difference: It is considered essential that town site based projects establish clear points of difference to attract permanent and transient population away from competitors, encourage direct private investment and create jobs. Innovation can be used to create a point of difference and can be as simple as uniquely designed bins, recharging stations in WiFi zones or high specification ablution blocks. Big point of difference attractors are also considered useful such as Manjimup’s unique playground or proposed construction of the South West Energy Experience, Brockman Street roof and the State Timber Museum. All elements of any project have capacity to create a point of difference that add to the destination attractiveness. 

Strategy: It is considered that developing a strategic blueprint is imperative to successful coordinated projects. The Manjimup Townsite Growth Plan is an excellent example of a strategic consultative approach to multiple project success. Once project business cases are finalised (noting it is mandatory that they are robust and verifiable), establishing and maintaining funding contacts and promoting the strategic vision will greatly assist in obtaining project funding.

Communicate and Market: This is considered absolutely essential to ensure internal and external stakeholders are fully informed about the project implementation and amendment. As examples of activities the Shire established a Community Information Office for the project separate from the building used for ordinary business. In addition a targeted media campaign focussed on selling the vision to prospective investors is ongoing.

Leverage Additional Funds: Once project funding is received, leverage at all opportunities. Simplistically, existing money does generate additional money relatively easily. The Shire has been successful in leveraging an additional unexpected $1.8M in new project funds for Stage 2 of the project.
Project Management Structures: Look to within your organisation to project manage. Far too much expense is wasted on unnecessary consultants engaged to deliver what can be delivered often more effectively “in house”. The Shire of Manjimup has utilised existing staff to project manage the majority of our project delivery by backfilling existing positions to maintain normal operations. Benefits have included professional development, project management experience, organisation ownership, an ability to innovate, efficient and effective project delivery, and considerable costs savings by reducing the number of consultants used.

Governance, Procurement and Reporting: Strong governance, procurement and reporting capabilities ensure that projects are managed efficiently, obtain value for money, meet deadlines for delivery and satisfy funding partners. Organisations that do not have sound governance, procurement and reporting structures should not engage in projects beyond their competence. It is considered that the Shire has excellent governance, procurement and reporting frameworks guided by legislative requirements and added to experienced personnel tasked to these functions has enabled successful project delivery and additional secured funding.

Actively Mitigate Risk: It is considered essential that project risk is constantly assessed and where significant risk is apparent in any element, undertake measures to mitigate risk. Mitigation activities engaged by the Shire included redesign, substitution and allowances for contingent funding.

Funding Brockman Street Commencement of Works

Total Value of the Project was $32.9M
Funding Sources:
  • Co-funded with the Private Sector
  • Contributing State Grant
  • Contributing Federal Grant
  • Also state agency funding from Main Roads WA as a funding contribution specific to works on roads under their direct control.