With Christmas fast approaching, and a new year upon us, we have put together some of our thoughts for 2018 on national regional development. This year we focus on the theme of ‘Connections’.
The course of 2017 has suggested to us the importance of improving our sense of connectedness – national, physical, virtual, cultural, societal and personal – in 2018.
On behalf of the Board, staff and associates of the Western Research Institute we wish to you a very happy Christmas and new year.
National Connections – inclusive population and development planning
In 2017, a ReachTel Poll conducted for Fairfax Media found that two-thirds of Sydney-siders “believe that Sydney is full”. A study by the Australian Population Research Institute found that 74 percent of Australians believe we do not need more people. The historic community consensus on population growth is fragmenting. In WRI's view, focussing on city development, rather than integrated national development, places artificial limits on the critical need to grow our population. WRI believes that Australia needs to start talking in 2018 about an integrated national plan for population, development and growth that leverages the capacity of both our cities and regions.
Physical connections - Higher Speed Rail
In 2017, we found an interesting article from the Rail Futures Institute published in The Conversation (This is how regional rail can help ease our big cities’ commuter crush) which sets out the case for creating regional commuter suburbs to support sustainable growth of cities, and improved regional connectedness, using higher-speed rail. Victoria is well ahead of other States on this measure, and will no doubt reap the long-term social and economic rewards of sustainable population growth, improved workforce accessibility and better liveability.
Virtual connections - NBN speed
Broadband is now an essential community and business service. This year, telecommunications companies started compensating users for promoting broadband speeds that could not be delivered in practice (see here and here). NBN has the data to inform regional businesses and consumers of the exact capacity of their line, and we think routinely disclosing this information would be a step in the right direction to support informed consumer and business decision-making.
Community connections – inclusive planning
Engaging communities and business in a collaborative approach to local planning saves time and money by reducing unnecessary conflict, and getting outcomes everyone supports. In 2017, the NSW Office of Local Government listed good practice examples for developing community strategic plans. WRI congratulates the councils that have been recognised for their commitment to engaging with their communities to plan for a shared future.
Cultural connections – Recognising Our Privilege
The plan to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution took a step back in 2017. Indigenous people are a large proportion, and integral part, of many of Australia's rural and regional communities. WRI hopes that in 2018 regions take a leading role in helping to drive a national discussion on the privilege of sharing this land with the oldest civilisation on the planet.
Personal connections – rebuilding trust
There has been a decline in trust in our public institutions in 2017 as communities feel that decisions do not take account of their needs. This year, the Productivity Commission proposed a new policy model for development, suggesting that we ‘shift the dial’ from a focus on purely economic outcomes and embrace both economic and societal needs. Sydney Morning Herald opinion writer Ross Gittins has written a number of instructive pieces on what this means (Few noticed we just saw a radical shift in reform thinking). WRI is looking forward to seeing how governments, business and the community engage with this proposed new model in 2018.
WRI will be taking time off over the Christmas/New Year period, and will be back early January to assist you with your consultation, engagement, strategic planning, economic development and grant writing needs. Please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we return.
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