Regional investment must be prioritised

It’s a bit over a week and the dust has settled on what we are being told is a record-breaking budget for NSW. I’ve been having a look over the detail and undoubtedly the state is in a good financial position. The state has an extremely large amount of money and media reports that call it the “envy of the western world” are quite correct. Most of this is to be attributed to the large amounts of stamp duty collected, as well as the sale of assets. That said; there is a very clear case for rural, regional and remote areas to be getting a bigger slice of the pie.

There are some welcome initiatives such as the new Regional Growth Fund which represents an additional $1.3 billion for regional NSW. This will be flowing out via a number of sub-projects and funds, which we are yet to see the full detail on. In principle though, it is an appreciated and sizeable investment. The key for success in the delivery of the projects funded within these programs will be the actual tangible outcomes we see, rather than more money spent on planning. Proof of the success and positive benefits of this funding is a long way off for many of the communities of the west.

In many ways, this is a hard budget to criticize; although I do feel that with so much money, and having sold off large assets; the government have missed an opportunity to do some really visionary and ground-breaking projects, particularly for the bush. Those projects are happening in Sydney, but they are not happening in rural, regional and remote NSW on the same scale. Yet.

There is approximately $70 billion committed in the forward estimates, with $9 billion of that ear-marked for regional areas (so far). We need and deserve a bigger share; so let’s hope we see it next year prior to the election.

We can be thankful for a budget that places the state in a great position to be able to invest in its future, but we will be looking for a larger slice of the pie in the future. Rural, regional and remote NSW not only needs it; it deserves it.

What do you think?

Country

Guest Blog – Marie Kelly

Guest Blog – Marie Kelly

Thanks Annette for inviting me to Blog – it is my first time!

I have been living in the Far West NSW for 25 years, moving here as part of my nursing career. Originally from rural South Australia, settling into this region was really easy. Most of my time in that 25 years was spent at Menindee, but I have worked, relieved, or socialised in all communities in the area.

I have been a CWA Ivanhoe branch member for eight years, the last two as the Secretary. The friendships gained through CWA have been great. Our monthly meetings have a social aspect, and we have fun when catering and participating in community events. Attending Group meetings and State Conferences’ involves travel time, and we make that fun too.

In January 2015, I was appointed as the Rural Adversity Mental Health (RAMHP) Coordinator for the Far West Local Health District. I am one of 14 people in this role working across rural NSW. After being appointed to this position, I moved to Ivanhoe where my partner of 10 years, Wayne, lives.

The RAMHP program is about raising awareness about mental health issues and connecting people to appropriate services. We do this through our training programs, providing information and resources and building partnerships with organisations and individuals. I provide workshops, attend events, and network with people.

This role requires me to be away from home three or four nights a week, and driving anything from 600 to 2,000 km a week. Music and podcasts help me on these long trips. Wayne works away from home too, so both of us lead fulfilling lives.

I am fearful and cautious of long distance dirt road driving. A milk crate containing water, baked beans, instant soup, toilet paper, hat, beanie, matches and glow sticks, dusters, rain coat, blanket, poly tarp, high vis shirt, pocket knife and insect repellent sits next to the second spare tyre. I also have a trolley jack, impact gun and jump start/compressor kit. A few other little tools and gadgets are wedged between these things and all my mental health resources. Most of these things have been used at some stage.

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A couple of the challenges are changing tyres when the temperature is over 40 degrees and having to ‘go the long way round’ by bitumen roads when the dirt roads are closed after rain. For example, the 210 km trip to Menindee can become a 910 km trip via Hay, Wentworth and Broken Hill. Of course sometimes it starts to rain when I am halfway through a trip or an isolated storm has fallen in the middle of a route and then the fun begins. Driving in mud is not one of my favourite past times. My biggest challenge is a lack of phone and internet service in much of the area I travel.

The role in RAMHP is very rewarding and I like to think this work is making a difference to the lives of some people living in the Far West. I certainly have become more aware of looking after my own mental health and make sure I do something each day to stay mentally healthy.

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Dear Mr. Abbott

What guarantees will you put in place to ensure that those of us who choose to live in rural Australia will still have safe, accessible water sources and the productive land we currently enjoy?

What guarantees will you put in place to ensure that those of us who choose to live in rural Australia will still have safe, accessible water sources and the productive land we currently enjoy?

Firstly, congratulations on being elected Prime Minister of this great country. It is, as you say an honour, but also carries with it great responsibility.

The Country Women’s Association of NSW has, for 91 years championed the rights of and furthered causes for, women, their families and communities.

We do not possess unlimited financial or physical resources to be able to compete with other interest groups. What we do have is a proud history of frank, passionate, reasoned and informed contributions to many debates that bear striking resemblance to those we continue to be involved in today. It is for this reason I write to you now.

In your acceptance speech you said that Australia is once again open for new business. One of our main concerns is the protection of agricultural land, used in the production of food and fibre, and the precious ground and surface water that sustains it and us.

The resources boom has delivered a short term reprieve to governments struggling with debt, but at what long term cost. History shows us time and again that our march towards the 21st century has proven to be detrimental to our natural environment. What guarantees will you put in place to ensure that those of us who choose to live in rural Australia will still have safe, accessible water sources and the productive land we currently enjoy?

You also commented that the Coalition will not leave anyone behind. Members of CWA of NSW have continuously lobbied for improvements to health and other government services, telecommunications, road and rail infrastructure, law and order issues, equitable access to education, fair prices for commodities, the list goes on. It would be nice to think that, under your leadership, rural Australia will not be left behind, once again, on these issues. The vicious cycle of reduction and population drift from inland Australia will only continue whilst successive governments refuse to look further into the future than the next election.

We bring to the table a unique perspective on a wide range of issues, the ongoing concern and discussion around energy drinks is a case in point. We are now significant contributors in many of the debates that are taking place in the public arena and we are witnessing a growing trend to be included in the forums and discussions that lead to positive change. You will find a list of our current issues here.

You should know that alongside the fellowship, the charity and the tea and scones continues an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Australian families by continuing to articulate the concerns of our members in the only way we know how; forthright, fair and from the heart.

So we ask you Mr. Abbott to look beyond the next 3 years and create for future generations, as well as yourself, a legacy like ours, to be proud of.

Yours Sincerely,

Tanya Cameron