OPAN - Opportunities Pyrenees, Ararat and Northern Grampians

Opportunities Pyrenees Ararat and Northern Grampians (OPAN) is a three-year project to directly address the existing and future shortage of skilled and unskilled workers across the Pyrenees, Ararat and Northern Grampians local government areas (LGAs) by focusing on workforce planning, migration, housing and transport.

For more information about the OPAN project, download the overview and action plan by clicking here(PDF, 7MB) (Updated April 2020).

Strategies and objectives

Across the three local government areas, employers have been struggling to recruit and retain workers. On top of this, the region is expected to experience a construction boom as key projects and business expansions take place, resulting in around 1000 new ongoing jobs over the next five years.

A few of the major initiatives include:

  • Completion of the Western Highway duplication works from Ballarat to Stawell, with $672 million invested and a further $360 million committed by the Australian Government. Works will include adding two lanes in each direction between Buangor to Stawell with a central median to separate traffic and the Beaufort, Ararat and Great Western Bypasses. This will create construction jobs during the project and support economic growth, reduce freight and logistics costs, as well as reduce commuting time and improve road safety in the region once the works are complete.
  • $1.8 billion investment into a stronger prison system in the 2019/20 Victorian Budget, supporting jobs at the Hopkins Correctional Centre in Ararat and Langi Kal Kal Prison near Beaufort.
  • East Grampians Rural Pipeline, securing water supply to the agricultural sector with $62 million committed from the Victorian and Australian Governments, creating an estimated 350 jobs during construction and around 82 ongoing jobs once complete.
  • $6 million expansion of AF Gason in Ararat, creating over 15 new jobs.
  • Nectar Farms hydroponic glasshouse project at the Bulgana Green Power Hub near Stawell, with over 100 ongoing jobs expected at the completion of the Stage 1, 10 hectare state of the art facility, and a further 30 hectares planned for Stage 2, creating 250 ongoing jobs and 300 construction jobs.
  • Completion of the $29 million Grampians Peaks Trail in the Grampians National Park due in 2020. By 2025, total expenditure by visitors to the Grampians is expected to reach $85 million per year. This spending is expected to support an estimated 425 direct full time jobs for people in the Grampians region (Grampians Peaks Trail Master Plan 2014).
  • Victorian Renewable Energy Target of 50% by 2030 and the development of Grampians Regional Roadmap to Zero plan, which will drive millions of investment into renewable energy projects in the region and create ongoing technician jobs.
  • The Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ) to comprise of over 438 hectares of industrial, wholesale, logistics and other businesses with strong access to road, rail and ports, and will provide job opportunities for residents of the OPAN region.
  • $10 million Stawell Underground Physics Lab, creating construction jobs and supporting around 80 ongoing jobs.
  • Reactivation of the Stawell Gold Mine, boosting the local economy, etc.


Many baby boomers will also be retiring from the workforce. Based on 2016 ABS Census data, approximately 1300 people, or around 20% of the existing workforce across the three LGAs, will reach retirement age in the next five years. There are not enough workers within the region to fill all of these forecasted job vacancies. As of December 2018, the unemployment rate in the three LGAs was very low, between 3.89% and 4.2%. This is at the lower end of the unemployment range that some economists describe as ‘full employment’, where there are a small number of people in between jobs, and where anyone who is able and wants a job will have one at fair wages. 

Without action to attract and retain a new workforce to the region, we risk missing out on an opportunity to grow our local economies and communities.