Regional Capitals Australia has today thrown its weight behind the National Farmers Federation’s proposal to establish Regional Development Precincts.

Speaking as part of the launch today in Shepparton, Cr Daniel Moloney, Chair of Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) said as the country moved toward COVID recovery, the government had a once in a generation opportunity to pursue a strategic regionalisation agenda.

“The Regional Development Precinct proposal is great news for the identified Regional Capitals Australia members nominated, with the goal to unlock new economic and employment opportunities if government gets the delivery right” Cr Moloney said.

“We know that vibrant regional capitals provide the elements Australian agriculture needs to thrive, and vice versa” Cr Moloney explained.

“However, regional Australia is a diverse place and we believe the model should be expanded further to include important cities such as Ballarat, Albury, Alice Springs, Broken Hill, Broome, Bunbury, Coffs Harbour, Fraser Coast, Geelong, Karratha and Port Hedland” Cr Moloney said.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has proposed new funding and framework to drive collaboration and investment across all three tiers of government for a select number of regional centres, with a particular focus on accelerating primary production. 

RCA acknowledged the role of primary production in regional Australia but also emphasized the importance of also developing all regional cities – with diverse economies – to secure new and emerging industries.

“Regional Capitals are booming and it have been the engine room of Australia’s economy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – a precinct mode of investment would help ensure our members get the right infrastructure funding to keep pace with that growth” Cr Moloney said.

According to Infrastructure Australia, there has been a 200% increase in growth to regional areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating demand for housing, services, and infrastructure.

Chair of the National Farmers Federation Ms Fiona 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.

“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.

RCA collaborated with the NFF to ensure the voice of regional capitals was heard through the policy development process, particularly advocating for a reinvigoration of Regional Deals and associated regional development programs.

“The secret’s out” Cr Moloney declared.

“Regional capital living offers a more affordable lifestyle, strong sense of community and better work-life balance – but we also need deliberate funding and policy settings to preserve those unique advantages and keep pace with growth” Cr Moloney concluded.

The NFF has proposed twenty locations for the new Regional Development Precincts based on a range of social, environmental and economic criteria. They are:

  • Roma (QLD),
  • Tennant Creek (NT),
  • Toowoomba (QLD),
  • Latrobe/Gippsland (VIC),
  • Emerald (QLD),
  • Mildura (VIC),
  • Gladstone (QLD),
  • Shepparton (VIC),
  • Mount Gambier (SA),
  • Warrnambool (VIC),
  • Port Lincoln (SA)
  • West/North West Region (TAS)
  • Central West/Oranga (NSW)
  • Greater Geraldton (WA)
  • Riverina (NSW)
  • Kalgoorlie-Boulder (WA)
  • Northern Rivers (NSW); and
  • Merredin (WA).