Decline on the cards for small towns


(via The Land)

AN ambitious goal of 40,000 new jobs for regional NSW is at the core of the Coalition’s Regional Kick Start plan, but what’s happening behind the headlines?

According to the latest labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) jobs growth in regional NSW has been static for the last three years.

There were 1190 jobs in regional NSW at the start of 2011, the same as the most recent figure recorded in December 2014 but unemployment had increased by 16,000 to 90,000.

Regional growth is now more pressing than ever, with widespread decline predicted by the NSW Department of Planning across much of NSW from 2011 to 2031 (see graphic).

However, NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Troy Grant said despite the negative data from the ABS, the Coalition had actually met its target.

“More than 39,000 jobs have been created outside Sydney since 2011,” he said.

“While employment statistics provide a measure of past economic activity, job vacancies indicate future economic performance.

“The latest job vacancy figures for regional NSW are very encouraging, showing a 6.9 per cent increase in internet job vacancies from November 2013 to November 2014.”

Opposition regional affairs spokesman Mick Veitch said the latest labour force figures disproved the claim.

“The ABS has belled the cat and exposed their broken promise,” he said, “if ever there was a policy whacked together on the back of an envelope it was the Decade of Decentralisation.”

The Land has campaigned for more than a year on the need to boost investment in regional infrastructure, including bridges, roads, freight rail, hospitals and small towns…

Read more by Mike Foley, The Land 12 February 2015

Evocities representative believes state government’s forgotten about regional development


Evocities spokesman, James Treloar, is calling on the NSW Government and the Opposition to do more for regional development. (ABC News)

The spokesman for Evocities is critical of the New South Wales Government’s commitment to regional development.

James Treloar says regional cities such as Wagga, Tamworth and Orange need to grow and prosper to support surrounding smaller communities and take the pressure off places like western Sydney.

He says the government had a few good programs, but did not get a grasp of what is needed.

“I think the last three and a half years of a coalition government have possibly seen the worst policies on regional development I’ve ever seen in New South Wales,” he said.

“I really do believe they have overlooked the opportunities of growth into regional areas and they have just left it to the local government sector to try and boost regional development.”

Mr Treloar, who is a former member of the Nationals and a sitting Tamworth Regional Councillor, says it is not just money that needs to be spent.

He says he wants more promotion of the rewards and savings of living outside the major cities.

Mr Treloar says the Coalition’s commitment to regional growth in its first term has been poor, but nor is he praising Labor.

“Look they haven’t come out with a policy that’s making me think they’d do any better job,” he said.

“I just think we unfortunately are too often taken for granted.

“We’ve been a conservative voting mob and we will continue to get what we deserve because we just keep putting our hand up and voting for the same people.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Treloar says after going through a merger of five councils, there is no major pain, except among elected officials and general managers.

Councillor Treloar says the formation of Tamworth Regional Council a decade ago has greatly benefited Tamworth, but has also benefited smaller outlying communities, including the provision of expert staff.

Councillor Treloar says he is aware of the angst about the Fit for the Future program but councils need to look at the positives.

“There will be some negatives,” he said.

“We had 45 councillors brought down to nine, which obviously means that your representation to the community is far less, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse, it’s just there’s less numbers there.

“The only people whose jobs are not secure are the elected body and the general manager.

“And isn’t it ironic that the spokespeople for most of these amalgamation issues are the general manager and the elected body.”

Councillor Treloar says there should not be public concern about council mergers.

Riverina councils are working on their response to the state government’s Fit for the Future package and some are investigating a merger…

Read more by ABC News 11 February 2015

Approval for major new Chinese owned coal mine on Liverpool Plains


(ABC Four Corners – ABC TV)

The Planning Assessment Commission decides a major new open cut coal mine can go ahead on some of the most fertile farm land in Australia.

The NSW Planning Assessment Commission give the green light for a major new Chinese owned coal mine on the Liverpool Plains.

The Liverpool Plains near Gunnedah are often described as the food-bowl of Australia, with some of the nation’s most fertile agricultural land.

The Shenhua Watermark Coal project includes developing a new open cut coal mine that will extract up to 10-million tonnes of coal a year for 30 years.

For more than eight years farmers in the region have been campaigning to stop the project, expressing concern about the impact on the underground water system and soils.

Shenhua paid the former NSW Labor Government $300 million for the exploration licence.

The project has been through the Department of Planning and reviewed by the Planning Assessment Commission.

The PAC’s final determination give the green light for the project subject to comprehensive conditions and management requirements.

It’s outlined six key points including protecting the Black Soil Plains.

The PAC says it believes the mine will be in the hills above the black soil plains and will not directly disturb those fertile soils.

It says it will generate dust, noise and blasting impacts on land around the mine, but it says those impacts can be managed.

The PAC has found the mine will have ‘modest impacts on groundwater’ in the hard rock aquifers, rather than the Upper Naomi alluvial aquifers relied on by the agricultural sector.

It’s found groundwater draw downs are well within the levels permitted by the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy.

Traditional owners have expressed deep concern about the project’s impact on three ‘grinding groove’ sites and Shenhua’s plans to have them relocated, but the PAC believes the sacred objects can be relocated and preserved.

A known Koala habitat, the PAC has also found that the mining company’s Koala Plan of Management will ensure that koalas are given the best chance of survival both in any translocation programs.

The PAC says it is satisfied that the proposal will generate significant employment, royalties and other economic benefits to the community.

The Caroona Coal Action Group has been involved in a campaign against the mine for the last eight years, it’s CEO Tim Duddy is angry.

“As this progressively moves, the water resources will be destroyed the agricultural region will be die, the towns will be harmed and in the short term there will be a boom, then there will be a huge bust leaving a legacy where there is nothing forever. And basically the PAC has signed the warrant for that to happen today.”

An emotional Mr Duddy says the fight will continue.

“This is not the end of it, but this is a very, very black day for our region.”

“This whole process, the whole thing that is being contemplated here, is based on things that have been shown that in other places they do not work. We are being left with the same crap, that the miners are being allowed to get away with time and time again things that there isn’t another industry alive which would be able to get away with it.”

“People are so tied to this place and people are so angry about these processes that we have participated in for the last eight years in good faith, [believing} that our assets would be protected, and clearly with what the Planning and Assessment has signed today, they are not.”

He says he is very concerned about the impact the decision may have on the mental health of the community who’ve fought for almost a decade.

“I can’t imagine what this will do to the community, and I expect that something awful will happen as a result of this. Someone will lose it because of this and something awful will happen.”

Sheuhua has welcomed the decision. The Project Manager, Paul Jackson says the result is the final step in a long journey…

Read more by Kelly Fuller, ABC New England North West 29 January 2015

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Great South Coast group’s housing plan outlines challenges

Priority_Projects-2014A STRATEGIC plan predicting demand for housing will outpace population growth in the south-west will be taken to state government ministers soon in the hope of getting funding and policy support.

The Great South Coast group’s new regional strategic plan shows the region’s overall population growth will be barely half the projected state level, but Warrnambool will be a stand-out performer with a 34 per cent growth in the 20 years to 2031 and about half the region’s population.

Its 2014-19 strategic plan list the main challenges as the decline of small towns, an ageing population, managing growth, protecting natural and cultural heritage, boosting education attainment, better access to services, tackling regional disadvantages, economic growth and improving health.

Group executive officer Karen Foster told The Standard her team would approach all state ministers seeking meetings to brief them on the plan as soon as possible.

“We want to give them a sense of what’s important in our region,” Ms Foster said.

The Great South Coast Group, an alliance of government, industry and community across six municipalities, advocates on key issues and promotes the potential of the region, which already produces a quarter of the nation’s milk.

Ms Foster said the strategic plan was developed over four years and expanded on goals set by an earlier regional alliance. It also incorporates priorities outlined in a 30-year regional growth plan unveiled by the former state government in July.

The strategic plan shows Warr-nambool is expected to have about 44,000 residents by 2031, including a 25 per cent growth spurt by 2026…

Read more by Peter Collins, The Standard 20 January 2015


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