SOUTH Gippsland was at its green and sparkling best last Thursday for the visit of the Victorian Governor, the Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC and Mrs Chernov.
South Gippsland Mayor, Cr Warren Raabe, hosted the Governor’s visit, which was part of an official tour of South Gippsland, Bass Coast and Baw Baw shires.
The visit was recognised as a great opportunity to showcase the natural attractions and produce of the region, so included in the official itinerary was a visit to Wilsons Promontory National Park and lunch with local producers at Waratah Hills Winery.
A highlight for Mrs Chernov, a keen gardener and art lover, was a visit to the Celia Rosser Gallery at Fish Creek. There she and the Governor met the world-renowned botanical artist and admired her stunning paintings of Banksias. Later that day, at a civic reception in Leongatha, they were thrilled to be presented with a triptych of Banksia rosserae. The painting was a gift from South Gippsland Shire and from Celia Rosser and her son, Andrew, who runs the gallery.
A few Fish Creek identities, such as Nadia Stefani from the local progress group, and school captains from the local primary school, were invited to enjoy morning tea and a relaxed chat with the Governor and Mrs Chernov at the gallery café.
The Governor, who has recently completed his first year in office, said that although he has visited the Prom previously, he is not overly familiar with South Gippsland. He aims to cover as much as possible of regional Victoria in his three-year term and is gradually working his way around the state.
At their Waratah Hills Winery outside Fish Creek, Judy and Neil Travers turned on a delicious luncheon for the Governor and Mrs Chernov and a dozen local producers and representatives of the tourism industry. Among the guests were Lyn and Andrew Jamieson from Golden Creek Olives at Fish Creek, Barry and Cheryl Charlton of Berrys Creek Cheese, and Graeme and Georgia Wilson from Windy Ridge Vineyard and Winery, who are both very involved in the local tourism industry.
Judy Travers said later that she had tried to source local produce as much as possible for the lunch, including beetroots and potatoes from local markets for the salads, honey from Loch and a cheese platter of local cheeses. She said the Governor appeared genuinely interested in the region’s emerging food and wine industry and commented how surprised he was at the sheer variety and quality.
“He said this was a very beautiful part of South Gippsland,” she added.
On their departure from the winery, the Governor and Mrs Chernov were presented with a gift comprising a selection of local produce to help them remember their visit to South Gippsland.
Their next stop was Wilsons Promontory National Park, where at Tidal River and Squeaky Beach chief ranger Helen Dixon and other Parks Victoria staff showed them how the national park is recovering in the aftermath of last year’s devastating floods.
That evening about 70 representatives of local communities attended a civic reception for the Governor at Council Chambers. The Governor said that he had had a wonderful day in South Gippsland and would carry away with him a very favourable impression of the region and a determination to visit again.
The reception was followed by a private dinner for the Governor and Mrs Chernov with South Gippsland shire councillors.
The Governor’s visit to South Gippsland Shire coincided with centenary celebrations for Leongatha Secondary College. On Friday the Governor was invited to attend the celebrations and plant a commemorative tree. He also toured the Murray Goulburn factory at Leongatha. This impressed upon him the huge importance of the dairy industry to South Gippsland. The factory is a major local employer and the biggest dairy processing plant in Australia.
Finally it was time to leave South Gippsland for Bass Coast Shire. “It’s amazing what can be packed into little more than a 24-hour visit!” said Mayor Warren Raabe.