It has been a challenging week for Hindmarsh Shire, in particular the community of Nhill, with the outbreak of COVID-19 rapidly hitting.

Hindmarsh has been fortunate since early 2020 to remain COVID-19 free, but with the opening up of Victoria, positive cases are being recorded locally in high numbers. We need to remember COVID-19 will eventually spread to all communities across the Wimmera.

Vaccination continues to be the best form of defence against COVID-19. We should be extremely proud of the high double dosed vaccination rates across Hindmarsh. Whilst vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19, it is widely recorded the symptoms are milder and hospitalisation is less common.

Our home has experienced COVID-19 first hand in the past week, with two positive cases. Whilst the symptoms have remained mild, it has been a roller coaster of emotion and overwhelm of information. The leadership shown by the key agencies, Grampians Public Health Unit, West Wimmera Health Service, Hindmarsh Shire Council and Nhill College, is to be commended.

Thank you to all the clinical staff that have been testing people in the long queues at the Nhill Trailer Exchange testing clinic and those assessing and supporting positive patients through telehealth calls and nursing provision. You have been working tirelessly and our community couldn’t fight this pandemic without you. At the first sign of any COVID-19 symptoms please ensure you get tested.

With the summer season commencing, the greatly awaited opening of the swimming pools in our four towns will bring many hours of delight, to all ages. We are fortunate to have the YMCA managing the pools across Hindmarsh this year, providing the opportunity for people to access all four pools on their season pass.

It was pleasing for Council to share the draft plans of the Jeparit Visitor Node with the community at the recent community consultation session. The Visitor Node will form part of the Wimmera River Discovery Trail and highlight natural attractions in Jeparit. The Jeparit Visitor Node will upgrade the popular Jeparit Swimming Hole which provides a safe place for people to enjoy the beautiful Wimmera River. At the November meeting, Council resolved to commit $300,000 to the project. Located adjacent to the Jeparit Caravan Park, the Visitor Node will also offer a Camp Kitchen where tourists and locals can enjoy BBQ and shelter facilities.

Hindmarsh is fortunate to have a number of beautiful water recreational spaces. The Dimboola River Ski course draws people from near and far, as do the quieter sections of the river offering tranquil surrounds for rowing boats. The Nhill Lake is popular in our home, for kayaking, and we look forward to visiting the Council’s recently acquired Rainbow Swimming Lake, which was highly desired by the Rainbow community.

As we head into the festive season I hope you stay safe and COVID-19 free. To younger members of community, please check out the Hindmarsh Shire Youth Council and Hindmarsh Shire Libraries social media platforms, to keep up to date on summer holiday activities around Hindmarsh.

Best wishes for those harvesting and may everyone have a joyous time celebrating the festive season with family and friends.

Cr Melanie Albrecht