The National Farm Federation has just released the Regional Australia paper outlining the federation’s agenda to achieve a “more prosperous future for the bush” through pathways for regional development.
According to NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar, the paper leverages the interests of citizens to work and live outside urban environments influenced by the ongoing 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.”
65% of the national population resides in urban centres, compared to the 30% in New Zealand and Canada. “This concentration causes major problems,” said Mr Mahar.
The Regionalisation Agenda puts emphasis on place-based development of regional centres, allowing regional cities to become hotspots for education and professional job opportunities.
“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,” Mr Mahar explained.
Mr Mahar highlighted the need to challenge bureaucratic red tapes hindering regional infrastructure development.
“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.”
A key priority in the NFF-led Agenda is to have agriculture play a vital role in leading regional development.
“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.”
About 80% of Australians believe that the Government should invest in food and fibre manufacturing in regional Australia, the NFF found.
The Foundation opined that Government programs, including the Modern Manufacturing Strategy, Regional Recovery Partnerships Program, and Building Better Regions Fund have already kickstarted the Regionalisation Agenda.
“There is an opportunity before us as a nation, that we must not squander,” Mr Mahar concluded.
See NFF’s Regional Agenda here.