Research released this week by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has found regional Australia employs one third of the country and without it, Australia’s economy would contract to the size it was in 1997.
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According to the report, regional Australia accounted for half of Australia’s national economic growth in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, and regional Australia is at the forefront of productivity in a third of industries.
RAI contends that “relentless negativity” towards regional NSW, with public debate and policy seeing regional areas as “hapless victims of change” has undermined the potential of 40 per cent of the nation’s economy.
It has called for a new approach to regional growth, which includes: A co-ordinated development strategy for regional cities which are now home to 4.5 million Australians; Supporting high growth small and medium enterprises; Training regional leaders to capitalise on free trade agreements; and accelerating the move to online services for regions.
Capitalising on the potential for regional Australia - and importantly for this region, making the transition to new opportunities in the wake of the mining boom - requires a long-term commitment from state and federal governments to planning and funding of infrastructure and services, rather than sporadic and short-lived schemes and promises.
Investing in regions will not only help to develop confidence among businesses and private investors but will attract new residents who will in turn contribute to stronger local communities and economies.
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