The area covered be Central Hume Primary Care Partnership (CHPCP) covers 15,510 sq km and includes a population of 60,000 residents. The CHPCP region is intersected by the Hume Highway providing a direct link to Albury/Wodonga to the North and Melbourne to the south, and by the Melbourne/Sydney railway.
It covers four Local Government Areas (Alpine Shire, Benalla Rural City, Mansfield Shire and Rural City of Wangaratta), two state electorates (Benalla and Murray Valley) and one federal electorate (Indi); spans major National Park and State forest areas; and includes established rural urban centres and emerging lifestyle and tourist developments.
A key feature of the area is that it defies the standard major centre/ satellites pattern displayed in other rural and regional locations. Central Hume has five major centres: Benalla, Bright, Mansfield, Myrtleford and Wangaratta.
Each displays a distinct set of relationship patterns with other towns in ways that are dictated by a combination of the mountainous geography, history and the shifting economic bases.
In addition, the area is divided in the way that it relates to major conurbations and the services provided therein. To the extent that they do go beyond their borders residents, business and services in the northern part of the sub-region look towards Albury/Wodonga, those in the south-west towards Shepparton and those in the far south to Melbourne.
Understanding this - the fact that the service relationships are not necessarily contained within the boundaries of the CHPCP geography is one of the keys to understanding the nature of any partnership possibilities in the region. In many ways Central Hume as a construct is merely a description of administrative convenience which masks a diverse cluster of communities, and a myriad of combinations of service.
There are however some common features in the region, including:
• A demographic which is characterised by an overall ageing population, with higher than average numbers in Wangaratta as older people move into larger centres;
• High economic growth rates in the mountainous regions reflecting the impact of tourism and other economic development and an accompanying relatively more youthful population;
• A relatively homogeneous white, Anglo-Saxon ethnicity with relatively small indigenous population and diminishing pockets of older residents from a limited number of non-English speaking backgrounds; an agricultural base, with industry/services in larger towns (with health sector as significant employer);
• Limited public transport infrastructure and large distances between centres.