Residents of the North-West Coast’s Latrobe Council area seem to have one thing in common – a sense of contentment.
And they’re also fiercely proud of the region they call home.
As machines move in to lay roads for more subdivisions, school rolls expand and new faces appear on the streets, the locals are rolling out the welcome carpet.
The municipality is one of the fastest growing regions in the state, at a steady 2 per cent a year. At that pace, the population will double in 35 years.
So what is it about Latrobe that is pulling in young families, mainlanders and retired folk?
For deputy mayor Graeme Brown, the answer is obvious.
It’s safe, it’s beautiful, it’s accessible and it’s friendly. In other words, it’s quality of life.
“We don’t have two lane highways and flashing lights and 24 hour shopping. It’s a good quality of life,” he said.
“People comment that they can walk anywhere they want to go to.
“They feel safe. They do walk of a night; you don’t have to keep off the streets after dark. There’s not a lot of vandalism and not a big crime rate.”
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While safety is clearly a drawcard for young families and seniors there are other attractions.
“Around Latrobe or Port Sorell we have some beautiful tracks and beaches.
“The [Wild Mersey] mountain bike tracks are unbelievable, the attraction they’ve brought into town. I’ve seen 65 cars up there in the car park at the weekend.
“I went up to Railton and back and I reckon we saw 50 people on the track and a huge amount would have been kids and half the adults were women.”
When finished, the $4.3 million network will link the Latrobe and Railton trails through the Badgers Range to Sheffield, along almost 100 kilometres of tracks.
Despite the steady influx of new residents year after year, Mr Brown said the council wasn’t having any growth problems.
“It’s not putting any stress on the council at the moment. Let’s plan now so it doesn’t put stress later on. We’re planning for where the future is going to expand.”
The council has for some years kept its eye on the ball in relation to planning, at least since 2016 after a spike in growth.
In the latest draft strategic plan 2020-2030, mayor Peter Freshney said the council’s aim over the next decade was “to guide but not constrain” growth.
He noted the council was careful to maintain the lifestyle and spirit of the community, which it recognised as a key reason for the draw to the region.
“Our townships have always valued the community spirit that binds us and provides that point of difference for so many.”
With a firm grip on the area’s strengths, the draft plan listed a number of weaknesses and threats, such as airline and flight limitations, tourism growth, continued uncertainty over the hospital, the availability of industrial land, and limited tourist accommodation.
The matter of land is of interest to the developers who are opening up large areas for housing and always looking for new opportunities.
Jochro Pty Ltd, now one of the state’s largest land developers, has several subdivisions on the go at Shearwater and Latrobe.
Manager Peter Kriz said it was doing the 210 lot Hawley Beach Estate subdivision, with a potential 200 more lots becoming available on another parcel of land there.
“We also have one in Latrobe called the Mersey Fields Estate,” he said.
“Lately sales have really picked up; we have only about half a year until it will be fully sold out.”
Land sales manager for the Jac Group, Peter King said many buyers were first home builders.
“A lot of young singles and young couples, then people with second or third homes with younger to middle age families and retirees, because of the medical services.
“And builders, who buy blocks to package them up and sell them.”
Mr King said sales had skyrocketed in the last few months.
“Sales in Latrobe have gone up 400 per cent.
“In some of the earlier years, you might look at 10 sales a year, but in the last three to four months we’ve seen it skyrocket to 20 lots a month.”
Mr Kriz put the leap down to the government stimulus packages during the COVID-19 period.
“It has made the biggest difference on the North-West Coast, where the lots are cheaper and the $45,000 makes a greater proportion of the overall price of the block and dwelling.”
Long term resident Donna Morse said the developers had brought better services with them.
She moved to Latrobe 39 years ago for a holiday and refused to go home.
“I fell in love with Latrobe and the people of Latrobe,” she said.
“In those days it was quite different; it had a bit of a reputation. My husband called it ‘Laramie’ because it was the wild west.”
Originally from WA, Mrs Morse said part of the draw was the village feel.
“The people were so warm and welcoming. It immediately felt like home to me, but it was a vastly different town then.”
She said the obvious change was how much it had grown.
“When we bought a house here there were open ditches, no kerb and channeling, no footpaths.
“It was like a rustic village. Now It has lost its village feel. But there are much better services.”
Mrs Morse said it was a good place for seniors too. “I think our elderly are really well catered for.
“It’s accessible for them. It’s very desirable here.”