WIMMERA Development Association has welcomed the findings of a parliamentary report into regional development and decentralisation.
The report – Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia's Future – makes 13 recommendations for supporting and promoting regional communities as sustainable, vibrant and enjoyable places to live and work.
Among the recommendations were that the federal government's City Deals program be extended to regional communities; that every federal government agency assess the possibility for relocation where appropriate; and that the government establish a Joint Standing Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation to examine issues affecting rural and regional Australia.
Wimmera Development Association made a submission to the committee during its 12-month inquiry.
Association project officer Mark Fletcher said regional areas offered many opportunities for development and decentralisation.
“In the past few years we were involved in discussions when the Grains Research and Development Corporation was looking at moving further afield from Canberra,” he said.
“We were in conversations before they set up offices in regional centres, to try to coax an arm of it to our region. We are obviously a very strong agricultural region, and we were hoping to get a piece of the action there.
“There were other areas that won over that argument, which was a little disappointing, but we hope there will be more opportunities.”
Mr Fletcher said the association was part of the push to return passenger rail to the Wimmera, something he believed would help the case for government agencies to relocate to rural areas.
“One of the big issues we keep hearing when we talk about getting professionals and other people to live in our regions is the need to easily access that type of transport,” he said.
“We are also continuing to push for the duplication of the Western Highway to come further than Stawell.”
Mr Fletcher said population growth was also vital for the region. “Population underpins the services we have, and helps attract more services,” he said.
“As populations decline, more pressure is put on the services we have, and financially it becomes more of a strained situation.”
In tabling the final report, committee chairman Damian Drum said alleviating the problems Australia’s capital cities faced with population growth rested with the potential and capacity of the country’s regional areas.