Nicky Ison and Jarra Hicks and Renewable Energy Opportunities for Regional Australia

Nicky Ison

Ms Nicky Ison, Community Renewable Energy

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference Participation and Progress in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 will include a presentation from Nicky Ison and Jarra Hicks on “Community Renewable Energy: Maximising the opportunities for regional Australia”.

Australia is in the midst of an energy transition: a shift from centralised fossil-fuels to decentralised renewable energy.  Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world and if we are smart this can become part of our nations’ prosperity and sustainability. Many of our best renewable resources are located in regional Australia and as such represent a huge opportunity for regional communities to participate in and benefit from this transition. In their address, Jarra and Nicky will outline the economic, technical, social and policy drivers behind the rapid growth in renewable energy.

While there is no doubt that this clean energy transition will lead to more jobs for regional Australia, there are certain strategies and policies that can be put in place to maximise the benefits to regional economies and communities. Jarra and Nicky will talk through the specific opportunities of community energy and community-developer partnerships, highlighting case-studies such as Repower Shoalhaven, Denmark Community Windfarm and the Sapphire Wind Farm and outline how regional communities are leading the transition to clean energy.

Jarra Hicks cropped

Ms Jarra Hicks, Community Power Agency

In 2011, Nicky Ison and Jarra Hicks formed Community Power Agency to help grow a vibrant community energy sector in Australia.  Through Community Power Agency, they have worked with and visited over 50 community energy projects and organisations in Australia, Europe and North America.  Nicky and Jarra also help found the Coalition for Community Energy, which is working to address the barriers to the development of a wider Australian community energy sector.  Together they have been instrumental in the development of community energy policy in NSW, Victoria and federally.


The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

Early bird closes on 25th July so be quick to receive a discounted rate.


Building a vibrant regional community

Despite the size of our country and the prevailing romance of the bush, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics we’re a very urbanised country.

From Federation until 1976, the percentage of Australians living in capital cities increased steadily from a little over one-third (36%) to almost two-thirds (65%). It’s remained steady since then with just less than two thirds of our population living in a capital city. As a result most of us live in capital cities – particularly on the coast – and many regional and rural areas are fighting declining populations. Jobs and opportunities to access health, education and other services are why people say they prefer living in urban, dense areas.But can investment in the regions change our attitudes to living outside the big city.

Jobs and opportunities to access health, education and other services are why people say they prefer living in urban, dense areas. But can investment in the regions change our attitudes to living outside the big city.

What’s a supertown?

A supertown is a vibrant regional community designed to play a vital role in the development and growth of its respective State or Territory. Supertowns are intended to be balanced communities that absorb predicted population growth and offer rich lifestyle options.

They’re part of a worldwide movement of regional regeneration that looks to revitalise ailing communities and install bridging infrastructure that boosts collective livelihoods.

Schemes and incentives

If supertowns appeal, WA is where you should head, where there’s funding for nine of them, with the aim of providing a viable alternative and relieving the strain on existing infrastructure in crowded cities.

In 2011 the WA Government announced that Katanning, Collie, Esperance, Northam, Jurien Bay, Morawa, Boddington, Manjimup and Margaret River would share in over $85 million in Royalties for Regions funding to stimulate growth.

A similar scheme in NSW called Evocities has seen seven regional cities – Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga – contribute resources to a campaign to entice people to live, work and invest in these Evocities.

‘Evo’ is short for energy, vision and opportunity and the Evocity campaign promotes itself as something different: “not a sea change, not a tree change but a city change”. Like other schemes, it sells a lower cost of living, career and business opportunities and enhanced lifestyle.

As an added incentive, NSW is offering one off payments of $7,000 to people wanting relocate from a metropolitan home to a regional home under the Regional Relocation (Home Buyers Grant) Act 2011. The programme commenced in July 2011 and is running for four years.

In Queensland, one of the fastest growing states, a whopping 1500 people move to the already densely populated South East of the state each week.

In an attempt to try and divert the crowds to other areas the Queensland Government introduced a $4,000 boost to the first home buyers grant for those who build in other regional areas.

While the uptake was slow (fewer than 200 applied in the first five months of the scheme) local areas have joined in with regional councils like Richmond offering additional incentives likefree general rates to first home buyers for five years. 

Other regional schemes include Country Change which tries to attract people to the NSW Riverina. Victoria has a more general scheme to encourage people to go regional. And South Australia has

Success or not?

It’s too early to tell if these many schemes and investments in our regional towns and cities have had the desired impact. All the schemes are young, and it will take time for the investments to reap rewards.

But the regions are hopeful. For instance, Evocities celebrated its second birthday in November 2012 by welcoming the 1000th person to relocate, and all seven cities were happy to sign up for another three years.

Research showed that the 505 households who have moved to one of the seven cities up to July 2012 generated almost $48 million in additional annual direct spending alone for the participating cities. An additional 558 households have told Evocities’ organisers they’re planning to move in the next 12 months.

Cheap rents

Away from the big schemes there are some grassroots initiatives to lure city folk into the regional areas. Very small towns are keen to solve acute problems like worker shortages and boost families in order to keep schools and health services open. Several have taken matters into their own hands.

While rents in most country towns are lower than in cities, the town of Cumnock (population 500) pioneered the idea of renting vacant farmhouses for $1 a week to attract new families to the district. After three years, nine families out of the original 20 still lives in Cumnock farmhouses or nearby towns. Inspired by the scheme, 15 more towns around Australia have followed.

The tiny town of Trundle in Central Western NSW (population 379) was one of them. Trundle featured in the documentary called County Town Rescue which plotted the move of five families who were given the opportunity to rent a farmhouse for just $1 a week in the town.

Whether you follow them or not, it’s inspiring stuff.

Go regional

Websites associated with all these initiatives not only sell lifestyle benefits, but work to promote local jobs, businesses, services and real estate investment.

And the regional dream can be very alluring: “Picture yourself in one of WA’s expanding SuperTowns – a new, friendly community; great local school; a new, affordable home; a good job and more work-life balance than you’ve ever known.”

So before you decide on your next career or property move, maybe it’s worth checking them out.

Read more by Emma Sorensen 22 Mar 2013 About Super Towns

RDA ConferenceTo discuss what make a vibrant Regional City, please attend the Australian Regional Development Conference, website  Australian Regional Development Conference,