A conversation has begun as part of Fairfax Media’s The Next Crop forums and steps are already underway on changing the direction of regional and rural communities.
As the three forums we’ve run so far (at Cooma, Grenfell and Armidale) have highlighted, the challenges are many.
Employers, whether on farms or in town, face problems with access to skilled labour, red tape and communications. Communities have limited health and education services, and young people who are establishing themselves in a career struggle to find the level of pay they seek in most country towns.
Some options have begun to emerge, such as alternate internet solutions, the Grenfell community has rallied to form a women in business group, and has reinvigorated its business development committee, while also floating options to improve its internet.
In the New England, some attendees will now look at how they can leverage off existing infrastructure, through ideas such as integrating businesses. For instance, Allan Parker, of consultancy Peak Performance Development, Sydney, said with office space that sat vacant for 12 hours a day, was there an opportunity to have other businesses piggy backing on this space?
Ideas such as these have come about through the forums bringing people together, getting a feel for their their community’s needs and looking at their options.
Fairfax Media is merely providing the platform for this to happen.
At Armidale, which attracted people locally, as well as from Glen Innes, Bingara, Richmond, Sussex Inlet, Tamworth, Wongarbon, Uralla and the Blue Mountains, the audience put forward a range of thoughts about what their communities needed and will receive feedback from Mr Parker to help identify areas which these communities already agree on, and could work together on.
Rural and regional NSW can’t sit back and wait for government to emerge from its city-focused projects like building sports stadiums, city light rail and moving museums, which are essentially designed (regardless of whether or not they succeed) to win votes and look like they are “building NSW”.
As Bob Wheeldon from Rest of NSW questions, why are businesses like Birdsnest, which employs 140 staff in Cooma, or Fletchers International, which employs hundreds of staff, paying so much payroll and land tax?
Most of this money was going into city-based projects, and is an area he sees could be leveraged to encourage, through tax breaks, more businesses to be based in regional areas.
It is these sorts of ideas the forums are seeking to uncover and discuss. We look forward to hearing yours in Griffith on June 7.
The aim of The Next Crop is to provide a platform for ideas to be put forward and discussed and to tease out different ways in which rural communities can discover and create opportunity.
In gathering our panelists for each event, we have targeted people with different ideas or who are already doing something in a new and successful way, and looking at how their experiences and ideas might translate to other regional communities.
Members of the community are invited to join The Next Crop forum at the Griffith Regional Theatre, in Griffith, from 5.30pm on Thursday, June 7.
The event is open to the whole community and entry is free. More information will be published in The Land or on the event’s web page in the next fortnight.
- Contact Keiana Cornwall, (02) 4570 4498 for more information.