The opportunities that come from our experiences with drought, bushfire and COVID-19 need to inspire our efforts to recover, renew, and rebuild.
The challenge now is to build on that and cement these experiences into our long-term response.
The pandemic has shifted the way people want to live and work. Just talk to any regional real estate agent.
Demand for homes to buy, rent or build is through the roof in our regional towns – demand is certainly outstripping supply.
This creates opportunity – but it also creates a housing crisis for the vulnerable members of our community.
Remote work – once a bumper sticker for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley has become an Australian reality.
And we’ve seen that spike on the back of one of the slowest internet services in the world – Australia is ranked number 61!
Imagine what we could achieve for regional people and businesses if we had an NBN that could keep pace with our vision and ambitions.
Previously, regional development has happened in a disorganised and ad-hoc way.
The numbers speak for themselves.
64 percent of Australians live in one of our big cities.
Yet you talk to those families and many dream of living a life with more space, less congestion, and with closer connections to the community and environment.
Job opportunities, internet speeds, mobile phone reception and a lack of housing prevent them from leaving the big smoke.
What 2021 and the years ahead require is an all-of-government approach to regionalisation – tying together the efforts and responsibilities of local, state and federal governments.
The federal government could and should be playing THE leadership role in the development of our regions.
Many regional communities already know what’s required – they just need the backing of all levels of government to make it happen.
Just last week I attended the Merimbula Town Summit organised by the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce.
The summit was another powerful example of the leadership, unity, and cooperation that is so critical to our future.
Property and business owners, government agencies, politicians of all persuasions, community leaders and service clubs all contributed to developing a 10-point plan outlining projects and ideas to enhance the town for residents, visitors and investors.
The summit highlighted the perennial catch 22 of regional development.
People won't relocate to the regions without improved infrastructure and jobs - but governments won’t make investments without the population to support it.
It’s an equation and way of thinking that is broken and has unfairly disadvantaged country towns and people for decades.
Working together – following the example set in Merimbula – let’s develop a renewal plan for Australian that starts in our regions.
The number of people might not be there yet to justify the investment, but when you commit to the end goal - when you commit to building and strengthening Australia as a whole – the business case stacks up – and the true power of regional development is released.
Photo: Merimbula Town Summit
Media Contact: Ian Campbell, phone 0417 482 171