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Bass Coast is located in southern Victoria, about 130 kilometres from Melbourne. Its name provides some indication of its location – the Shire encompasses extensive waterlines, bounded by Westernport Bay to the west and Bass Strait to the south. Cardinia Shire and South Gippsland Shire comprise the northern and eastern boundaries respectively. A distinctive topographic feature of Bass Coast is Phillip Island, located to the west of the mainland at the entrance to Westernport Bay.
The settlement pattern is largely rural in nature and includes a large regional centre – Wonthaggi – and smaller townships at Cowes (on Phillip Island) and Inverloch (on the southern coastline). Most settlements are small and reflect their role as coastal or agricultural villages. Wonthaggi, as the regional centre, is the main source of employment, with significant health, community service, education, tourism and manufacturing functions. Many of the coastal villages, particularly on Phillip Island, are characterised by large numbers of holiday and second homes, and as a result have high vacancy rates. Though the permanent population of the Shire has been growing strongly in recent years, the population also swells significantly during holiday periods, placing pressure on resources and creating numerous planning and logistical challenges for the Shire.
European settlement in Bass Coast dates back to the 1830s as people began to move outward from Melbourne. Rural industries such as agriculture and forestry were critical in the early development of the Shire. Coal was discovered at Wonthaggi but it was not mined extensively until the early twentieth century, further spurring population growth and the development of transport infrastructure to link the area to markets in Melbourne. Coal mining ceased in the 1960s but Wonthaggi continues its role as the main regional centre due to its size and diverse economy.
Though Phillip Island has long been a tourist destination, its early development was linked to agriculture. The completion of the first bridge in the 1940s opened up the island to further development and tourism. Relative proximity to Melbourne provided the impetus for the construction of many holiday homes, which continue to characterise the area today. The housing market on Phillip Island is dominated by retirees and mature couples taking advantage of lifestyle opportunities, as well as the natural amenity of the area. Some of these people are moving into their former holiday or second homes.
Note: The migration flows depicted above are historical and do not represent future or forecast migration flows or subsequent council boundary changes. The arrows represent migration flows to the area as a whole and do not indicate an origin or destination for any specific localities within the area. Overseas flow shows overseas arrivals based on answers to the census question "where did the person usually live 5-years ago" and .id estimates of international out-migration.
Future growth in Bass Coast is likely to be driven by amenity led migration (primarily retirees and mature couples), but young families will become increasingly important in specific locations such as Wonthaggi, Dalyston and Grantville. Towns such as these provide relatively affordable housing opportunities as well as access to employment markets. While many retirees will move into their former holiday/second homes, others will be attracted to more specialised lifestyle developments on Phillip Island and along the coast. Regardless, high vacancy rates are likely to remain characteristic of the Bass Coast settlement pattern as the signficance of the region as a tourism/holdiay destination is unlikely to diminish.
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