The National Farmers Federation has identified 20 regional centres and recommended more than $1.4 billion in new investment to secure their bright future and to provide a blueprint for regional renewal.
The NFF’s Regional Development Precincts was launched at SPC headquarters in Shepparton today with Regionalisation Minister, Senator Bridget McKenzie; Victorian Farmers Federation, 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 upon thousands of Australians were recognising the endless potential of regional Australia and joining longer term residents in making their home in regional centres like Shepparton.
However, a government-led strategy to deliver for growing populations and to guarantee the region’s vibrant future, remained elusive.
“Our regional centres and surrounding communities 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.
“For example, places like Mount Gambier and Warrnambool, and their adjacent towns and villages, should be globally recognised centres of high-tech agriculture, food processing and manufacturing leading to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the process.
“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 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.”
“Research by the NFF confirms regional Australians are protective of the charm of their bush homes, but they are increasingly challenged by the skyrocketing cost and lack of availability of housing and access to critical services such as healthcare.
“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,” Ms Simson said.
Nearly 30 industry and community representative groups contributed to the NFF’s proposal. The NFF engaged with local government, federal and state agencies, and received widespread support.
“The NFF is buoyed to have widespread support for the proposal. Agriculture and regional towns and cities are mutually dependent. Agriculture underpins the economy and social fabric of these communities and vice versa, agriculture needs strong, well-equipped towns to provide housing, healthcare and social services for farmers and their workforce.
“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)|
Chair, Outback Alliance, Andrew Drysdale
“There are repeated examples of policies developed for Australia’s more populated centres that are not fit-for-purpose for the Outback. The NFF recognises this in their proposal and state that the criteria and delivery of place-based investment for remote and dispersed communities needs to differ from what is included in their proposal. Place-based approaches are particularly important to Outback Australia because the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions faced by communities in the Outback are diﬀerent to those in the more-settled location where policies are usually devised.”
City of Greater Geraldton, Mayor, Shane Van Styn
“The City of Greater Geraldton is excited to be considered as a precinct under the NFF’s Regional Development Precinct Initiative. Such an initiative aligns with actions identified under our growth engine platform for success in the creation of new strategic relationships that supports and advocates for additional and co-ordinated investment within our region.”
City of Mount Gambier, Mayor, Lynette Martin
“Mount Gambier is already a thriving place to live and work and provides outstanding quality of life for our residents, backed by a strong local economy.
“The Regional Development Precincts Proposal Agenda provides us with the opportunity to build on our strengths, to support our diverse businesses and to apply the learnings from the COVID pandemic that has seen regional Australia come to the fore as a viable lifestyle choice with flexible working opportunities for those wishing to relocate from urban areas.”
“Investment in Mount Gambier and the Limestone Coast and other regions throughout the country is critical to ensure ongoing liveability and the success of the Australian economy.
“As attitudes begin to change about what it means to live in a regional area post pandemic, I really believe that the time is right for all levels of government to work together to embrace and support the concept of regionalisation and establish a plan to ensure we have the social and economic infrastructure in place to cater to an increasing population in the regions.”
Central Highlands Regional Council, Mayor, Kerry Hayes
“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.
“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.”