A LONG-mooted plan to see Victoria's central goldfields included as a UNESCO World Heritage site could be a key facet in returning tourism to central Victoria in a post-COVID-19 world.
The plan to see the goldfields gain world heritage status was first raised in the 1980s when future Premier John Brumby was the Member for Bendigo.
Mr Brumby long advocated for a 14,000sq/km space bordered by Ballarat in the south and Charlton in the north be recognised as the best example of the landscape created by the 19th century goldrush.
It is hoped within 5-10 years, a declaration, supported by 13 regional shires and councils, can be made by UNESCO.
For many regions, a world heritage listing has become a driving force for both domestic and international tourism.
Hepburn Shire councillor Don Henderson said the state government had funded enough money to get studies underway which would hopefully be completed within the next 12 months.
"What's unique about the goldfields is the way gold was mined and by whom it was mined," Cr Henderson said.
"Not only did we have the strong Chinese culture, but you had just about every race on earth get on a boat and come here. Up at Daylesford you have your Swiss-Italian influence.
"Up further north in the golden triangle you have the area which yielded the world's biggest nugget, in fact the biggest series nuggets in the world. Some of the mines yielded the purest gold ever seen.
"It's not just about gold, but also the culture that came with it."
Cr Henderson said the work being undertaken was "turning up gems" of information, including the Berry Number One mine which once had a future US president in Herbert Hoover work on it.
"Each shire has put money up and it's something the state government has supported," he said.
"The next stage is to get that body of work down, we're fortunate there is a lot of history readily available or already been researched. There's a lot of information out there that is not always seen."
Australia currently has 20 UNESCO world heritage sites. It has four cultural sites including convict sites and the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.
The country has 12 natural sites including the Great Barrier Reef and Shark Bay Western Australia and four mixed sites included Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Kakadu National Park.