Emerald is one of 20 regional centres identified by the National Farmers Federation as ideal to share in a recommended investment of $1.4 billion as part of the peak body’s plan for regional renewal.
The NFF’s Regional Development Precincts was launched at SPC headquarters in Shepparton this week with Regionalisation Minister, Senator Bridget McKenzie, the Business Council of Australia, Regional Australia Institute, Australian Food and Grocery Council, Regional Capitals Australia and other leading representative and regional bodies.
NFF President Fiona Simson said thousands of Australians were recognising the endless potential of regional Australia and joining longer-term residents in making their home in bush centres.
However, a government-led strategy to deliver for growing populations and to guarantee the region’s vibrant future, remained elusive.
‘Our regional centres should be great places to live with affordable housing, social services, amenity and cultural opportunities – on par with that in urban Australia. There must also be career and business opportunities,’ she said.
‘COVID-19 has exposed Australia’s reliance on international imports for critical inputs, such as ag-vet products and fertiliser. Now is the time to invest seriously in the domestic manufacturing capability of our country and it just makes sense for these developments to make their home in regional Australia.’
The proposal puts the onus on National Cabinet to establish a framework, including local government, to develop a plan for 20 Regional Development Precincts.
‘Rural local governments are acutely aware of both the challenges their communities face and their potential, but are financially constrained by a more-often-than-not small rate base. The tangible support of state and Federal governments, to address these would be a game-changer for the identified 20 towns and, undoubtedly, many more rural regions,’ Ms Simson said.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes said this was a great step towards better recognition of the contribution of regional Australia to the nation’s economy.
‘The Emerald precinct sits in the heart of our council area, which has an annual agricultural output of $1 billion largely from beef cattle but also cotton, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest seedless mandarin orchards, table grapes and macadamias,’ he said.
‘It is also the centre for Agtech and Minetech industry that has emerged out of the need for efficiency and innovation around production systems and logistics.
‘Our council and its sister development corporation have relentlessly pursued government to provide what we believe to be the equitable and appropriate level of investment in regional Australia and this NFF initiative and advocacy is easy for us to support.
‘There’s a key message here. We already have the jobs, we just need our communities to have the capacity and services to support people to take advantage of our growth and attractive lifestyle.
‘Two years of constraints in the Australian economy has shown us that regional communities are incredibly resilient and importantly its those regions and their productivity that hold our nation in good stead in a global context.’
Ms Simson said at least $1.4 billion in new funding was needed to ensure the plan was empowered to come to life and didn’t become yet another glossy document gathering dust in a high-rise inner-city office.
‘The goal is for Australians and Australian business to be no more than 90 minutes from the services they need to thrive personally and financially, and that businesses have access to infrastructure that can get people and goods around the country and around the world,’ she said.
‘This proposal addresses these critical concerns and far from wanting to make towns like Mildura and Emerald, another Melbourne or Brisbane, the NFF and our collaborators make the case for real collaboration across all tiers of government to achieve bona fide solutions to housing, education and health.
‘A real, impactful plan for regional Australia, based on developing the economic capability and availability and quality of critical services, goes to the heart of the NFF’s goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.’
The NFF’s 20 proposed Regional Development Precincts:
|Roma (Qld)||Tennant Creek (NT)|
|Toowoomba(Qld)||Latrobe Gippsland Region (Vic)|
|Emerald (Qld)||Mildura (Vic)|
|Gladstone (Qld)||Shepparton (Vic)|
|Mount Gambier (SA)||Warrnambool (Vic)|
|Port Lincoln (SA)||West & North-West – Tas (Burnie/Devonport)|
|Central West – Orana Region (NSW)||Greater Geraldton (WA)|
|Riverina Region (NSW)||Kalgoorlie-Boulder (WA)|
|New England – North West Region (NSW)||Esperance (WA)|
|Northern Rivers (NSW) – Lismore, Ballina, Casino||Merredin (WA)|