The NSW government is responding to challenges in the State’s west and providing exciting new opportunities for local residents with the implementation of the Far West Regional Plan.
I attended the Next Crop Forum in Cobar and heard from the community about some of the challenges they are facing such as harsh weather conditions.
Like many outback NSW towns, times are changing for Cobar, and uncertainty remains about the end of the local mining industry and future of agriculture across the region.
It was clear to me the community wanted to better understand what the future of Cobar could mean, how their aspirations align with that future and how they might position themselves to manage these upcoming challenges.
At the forum, I spoke to the community about the ways it can rally around a strategy with a shared vision that provides much needed direction and guidance to help take advantage of new opportunities and respond to emerging challenges.
This requires a good understanding of who the local community is and what they would like to achieve in the future.
The Far West Regional Plan is helping by assisting communities to better understand their area and what makes up their own community.
For instance, one action helping communities like Cobar is the development of a modelling tool that captures the economic benefits of mining. It helps communities plan for the essential services needed to support mining, such as a school, hospital capacity and local industry diversification.
The regional plan provides a strong foundation and context to guide communities like Cobar to shape their future. Key road upgrades for regional centres can play an important role in improving the supply chain and access to new markets.
New opportunities and industry may emerge as a result from this co-ordinated action to maximise vital regional opportunities.
Cobar could also benefit from the introduction of a local strategic planning statement which actively plans for the future of towns and regional cities.
Leaders in each town can proactively support this planning approach by ensuring their community has the right tools to participate in a conversation and have a clear understanding of the future vision for Cobar.
The adoption of these strategic planning tools will provide a greater level of certainty for Cobar residents looking to create new opportunities and build a shared vision for the future of their shire.