By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard
One of the big takeaways from the recent Federal budget handed down by Treasurer Frydenberg is the big spend on infrastructure in regional Queensland.
Over $7 billion in new money will be invested across Australia in transformational infrastructure including the development of ports, dams, roads and low emission manufacturing hubs to harness export growth opportunities.
This funding will be focused on just four regions of national importance, two of which are here in Queensland – broadly defined as Central and North Queensland.
But will building a beautiful big piece of infrastructure in a region, and letting the market take care of the rest, deliver the promised regional renaissance?
Through COVID-19 it appears city centric politicians, policy makers, and also the general public have rediscovered regional Australia.
For the first time in decades we’ve seen a reversal in rural-urban drift, the trend of regional towns hollowing out, with the best and brightest electing for life in the big smoke.
Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed the population of regional Australia grew by 70,900 people during 2020-21, in contrast to a decline of 26,000 for the capital cities.
This marks the first time since 1981 that Australia’s regional population grew more than the capital cities.
The people are speaking with their feet, but is regional Queensland and Australia ready to meet their needs when they arrive? And can any one government, or level of government, deliver on all these needs?
The answer, in short and quite obviously, is no.
Worryingly, the Queensland and Federal governments couldn’t even agree to announce together their shared funding to fix Paradise Dam, let alone anything more controversial.
Growcom supports the National Farmers’ Federation’s Regionalisation Agenda, including a recommendation the Federal Government set up a framework through National Cabinet, that includes key players like local councils, to do the necessary planning and coordination between governments that must happen if we’re to capitalise on the regional migration already underway and the huge infrastructure investments in the pipeline.
We have also joined 11 peak bodies in Queensland in calling for a National Housing Summit to address the growing shortage of suitable accommodation in regional centres for both new internal migrants and our seasonal workforce.
More here on the NFF’s Regionalisation Agenda.