Regional Australia under spotlight to support nation's population growth

Image by Shutterstock.
Image by Shutterstock.

WA is leading the nation on talks about securing regional deals to support population growth and the economy, with the City of Busselton part of the discussion.

Regional Capitals Australia are an organisation which works with 51 local governments across Australia looking at projects which would strengthen the regions.

The group is advocating for a new Regional Deal similar to the federal government’s City Deals which would bring together all levels of government to develop regional cities.

Busselton was identified as one of the nation’s regional hubs, which provides essential services and resources not only for people living in the city itself; but for those who live in surrounding areas.

Regional Capitals Australia chair Samantha McIntosh said around the country, different challenges were being created as a result of population growth, particularly in the capital cities, and they were looking at what regions could support growth.

City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said the biggest challenges would be ensuring growth was managed sustainably without compromising the environment or the life-style which was the reason many of people chose to live here.  

“This requires thorough long-term planning, sound fiscal management and engaging closely with the community to ensure development meets future needs and expectations,” he said.

Mr Henley said the city had attracted large retailers which created jobs as well as the university sector which has expanded educational opportunities. 

He said the city had taken a strategic approach to economic development over the past decade which had included establishing a profile as the ‘Events Capital of WA.’

“Working with the state and federal government and local business, we have seen significant  growth in tourism and innovations in creative industries, viticulture and  agriculture,” he said.

Forrest MP Nola Marino said the South West was one of the fastest growing regions in Australia and was an area where people wanted to live, work and retire.

She said there were a range of services, including quality education and health facilities, that could support a growing population.

“Diversity in industry is vital to supporting population growth and employment. The South West is fortunate to have one of the most diverse range of industries in Australia,” she said. 

“There are opportunities in mining, resource management, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, construction, retail, aged care services, tourism, and many other industries,” she said.

Regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan said there were major opportunities for economic development in the South West on the back of a blossoming minerals industry, growing viticulture exports and new agriculture and investment, as well as expanding opportunities for advanced manufacturing and tourism.

“The high level of amenity in the region, with its brilliant landscape values and an increasingly dynamic town life, underpins the region’s capacity to attract and retain skilled personnel,” she said.

“It also has the infrastructure and natural comparative advantages to support growth, including a port that could be positioned to absorb more of the state’s freight task.

“But we need to realise this potential.”

Ms MacTiernan said the state government was focused on attracting investment, capturing value from resource and agricultural commodities through value-adding and downstream processing.

She said the state government was unlocking industry growth by investing in infrastructure, and building industry capability to boost international competitiveness.