Western Coordination Group
In September 1997 a range of Western NSW organisations interested in regional economic development came together to consider ways in which they could work together and share information. This became the "Western Coordination Group", which met quarterly to discuss significant projects and issues of interest to the three western regions of NSW: Far West, Orana and Central West. At its meeting in February 1998 the Group resolved to support the creation of a "Western Research Institute" (WRI), dedicated to research and analysis aimed at developing the Western NSW economy.
The Group concluded that the existing provision of general economic information and data for Western NSW was inadequate and disjointed. While many organisations and businesses were commissioning research of various kinds, considerable duplication and over lap existed due to the range of research organisations being commissioned, many from outside the region.
Contributing to this confusion was the absence of readily available information on what research had been conducted in the past, and where it was held. A sub-committee was established to progress negotiations with various government and other organisations that eventually formed the nucleus of an interim Council of Management for the Western Research Institute. Mr Max Hanrahan, who also chaired the Western Coordination Group and the Central Western Regional Development Board, was appointed as chair of this Council.
Western NSW already had a number of private and public organisations conducting economic related research, including two universities (Charles Sturt University and Orange Agricultural College - The University of Sydney) and several government departments including the Land Information Centre and NSW Agriculture.
Charles Sturt University had created a specific "Regional Economic Research Unit" (RERU) headed by Mr Tom Murphy, with a growing reputation for quality economic research related to regional development. The Western Coordination Group felt however that more needed to be done to focus and enhance this research activity and link it more closely to the development needs of Western NSW. It was concluded that this could best be done by creating an independent research organisation which could draw on, and enter into partnerships with, existing academic and other bodies. Successful models of this approach operate in other regions: Hunter Valley Research Foundation; Illawarra Regional Information Service; Western Sydney Research Institute and; Centre for Australian Regional and Enterprise Development.
Western Research Institute (WRI)
Following negotiations with CSU, agreement was reached to locate the Western Research Institute at CSU's Bathurst campus,with CSU also contributing financially to the Institute's operations. The NSW Department of State and Regional Development (DSRD) and the Federal Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business (DEWRSB), had also provided government funding. Each of the three Regional Development Boards in Western NSW had contributed funds, and the three Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) were instrumental in securing a Federal Government grant.
The Western Research Institute was launched on 23 February 1999 at the Centre for Professional Development at Charles Sturt University. It attracted over 90 attendees from different sectors within the community. The general feeling at the launch was that the new facility would prove to be a major asset for those interested in the development of the Western NSW economy.
Since then, the WRI has completed approximately 220 projects for local government, state and federal government departments, agricultural industry organisations and regional businesses.