National Farmers’ Federation, Media Release, February 23, 2021
Regional Australia has a one in 100-year opportunity to set the agenda for what is needed to achieve a brighter and more prosperous future for the bush. This is the call to action in the National Farmers’ Federation-led Regionalisation Agenda paper launched today.
NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said the paper provided a clear pathway for regional development, leveraging Australians heightened interest in working and living outside urban centres influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 has been an absolute disruptive force, the NFF’s Regionalisation Agenda urges government and industry to work together to capitalise on the disruption and ensure the bush can deliver for all Australians: economically, socially and culturally.”
Mr Mahar said regionalisation was not just about regional communities, but a solution to many of the challenges facing urban centres, including chronic congestion and overpopulation.
“Australia stands alone in having almost 65% of its population in big cities, compare that to New Zealand or Canada who only have 30%. This concentration causes major problems.”
The NFF-led Regionalisation Agenda proposes more than a repeat of the tired thinking of relocating city jobs to regional areas.
“It charts a vision for regional Australia where regional economic activity and jobs are designed to thrive in the unique economic and geographical conditions of that region.
“Large regional cities should be places where teachers, nurses, tradies, lawyers and investment bankers live side by side and they should be well equipped to retain their best and brightest with education and job opportunities,” Mr Mahar said.
“To make regionalisation happen, we need to throw the same level of resources for place-based development of regional centres as we do for places like Western Sydney.
“We need federal, state and local governments to work hand in glove with industry on well-defined regional priorities.”
“We must challenge our bureaucrats whose decision-making processes always relegate transformational regional infrastructure behind infrastructure for our cities.
“That is why we are calling for a review of the disproportionately high discount rates used to assess infrastructure proposals that disadvantages investment in regional infrastructure, and we need a shovel-ready priority list for regional development investments to be drawn up.”
The NFF-led Regionalisation Agenda is supported by Australia’s leading industry and corporate voices, and the NFF believes that agriculture can play a vital role.
“Australia is without a cotton processing facility, despite Australian cotton being some of the most sought after in the world. The same is almost true for our renowned Merino wool,” Mr Mahar said.
“Regional Australia should be the host of a world leading export industry in food and fibre manufacturing. The fact we are not is a missed opportunity.”
Research by the NFF shows 80% of Australians believe the Government should invest in what is needed to support food and fibre manufacturing in regional Australia.
Programs such as the Governments Modern Manufacturing Strategy, Regional Recovery Partnerships Program and Building Better Regions Fund are solid foundations to support the Regionalisation Agenda, and the bipartisan support for an increased focus on regional development means the time is now to push for the Regionalisation Agenda.
“There is an opportunity before us as a nation, that we must not squander,” Mr Mahar said.