VISION 2020 TO DRIVE A POLICY RETHINK FOR RURAL NSW

November 11, 2015

In the wake of IPART’s recent decision to declare 56 councils in the state ‘unfit for the future’, Bingara and District Vision 2020 has decided it’s time to make a stand.

The release of IPART’s decision has only fuelled a fire that has been burning for some time and looking towards the future of rural NSW, Vision 2020 is determined to set about getting state government to make policy changes that will enable the betterment of rural communities. Fuelling this campaign is a strong determination to first and foremost put the cap on the threat of forced amalgamation.

Locally, Gwydir Shire Council faces the threat of amalgamating with Moree Plains Shire, and the race is on to stop this going ahead. “The process for IPART’s “Fit for the Future” scheme was deeply flawed and failed to recognise the true dynamics of these communities,” said Vision 2020 representative, Garry McDouall.

“Vision 2020 is determined to engage with all rural communities including those facing forced amalgamation to work towards a state wide think tank to creating a positive vision for the future of Rural NSW.”

Starting at a local level residents from both the south and the north of the shire, together with council are holding a summit at Warialda Town Hall on Wednesday, November 25 to look toward 2030 and, as a community, develop a positive plan for the future of the Gwydir Shire.

In conjunction with and in the lead up to the local level summit, Vision 2020 has also sought to do a state wide campaign through The Land newspaper aimed at getting more communities on board to present a united front on the future of Rural NSW.

The campaign will feature an open letter to all NSW State Government National Party parliamentary members from Vision 2020 president John Bishton. The letter seeks to encourage the National Party to develop a vision for the future of rural NSW, and policies that create a more balanced approach to state government. Also featuring in The Land campaign is an advertisement similar to the one displayed below which invites concerned communities to take action stating that “ There is no evidence of reduced rates, no evidence of maintained services and there is NO evidence that larger councils are more efficient or effective.” Already a number of other communities have come on-board, and this is expected to grow rapidly.

“The National Party, with the exception of local member, Adam Marshall, seem to be missing in action when it comes to supporting rural communities and delivering constructive policies for rural NSW,” Mr McDouall said.

“This is an opportunity for political parties, in particular the Nationals, to embrace a complete re-think of policies and change the focus to what it is that Rural NSW communities really need.”

At a local and state level, Vision 2020 is determined to influence a complete and most importantly positive turn around for the future of rural NSW. Now is the chance for all concerned members of the community to get on board by attending the Gwydir 2030 summit on November 25 and help to rebuild a vision for the Gwydir Shire and rural communities alike.

For more information on how you can get involved contact John Bishton on 0418 283127 or Garry McDouall 0428 834 281.


An Open Letter to all NSW State Government Parliamentary Members

Dear Members of Parliament

THE FUTURE FOR RURAL NSW – NEW OPPORTUNITIES!

The process for reassessing the future of local government in NSW, erroneously titled “Fit for the Future”, is regarded by most independent assessors as being deeply flawed. It is clearly nonsense to assess all NSW councils, regardless of geographical area or local demographics, against “one size fits all” benchmarks that ignore the economic and social roles played by many councils. Furthermore, this process does not address the cause of the problems – long-term State Government policies and practices that undermine good financial management in councils.

There is now a wonderful opportunity for the National Party to develop a vision for the future of rural NSW, and policies that create a more balanced approach to state government.

This approach would acknowledge and understand the differing needs of city and rural residents, and would move away from the heavily city-centric approach of the past few decades.

IPART has used a very simplistic approach to population projections.

They have assumed that because there have been falls in rural populations in the past, they will continue. The one thing that will make sure that this trend continues is to plan to make it happen.

A change in focus and new policies would rekindle the dynamics of rural NSW. Here are some examples:

(1) Agriculture moves from a derided poor cousin to the mining industry to become, once again, a major economic and social force. Policy builds on the fact that much of NSW offers one of the best combinations of rainfall and soil types of anywhere in the world. We move to more employment intensive agriculture rather than the “get big or get out” mentality of the past. Agricultural population starts to grow.

(2) Many rural areas can support larger populations. Services like schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure are already in place. We actively seek population for those areas. For example, we could change immigration policies to attract those with training, expertise and backgrounds suitable to rural environments.

We could be proactive in managing refugees, creating employment opportunities and multiculturalism in rural areas – surely more productive and more humane than hiding refugees in Third World countries overseas.

(3) We actively promote the benefits of rural living – strong communities, significantly cheaper housing, no traffic, a clean and healthy environment, a great place to bring up children – the list is endless! We develop decentralization policies that build on these advantages.

(4) We recognize that rapidly changing communication technologies open up a huge range of possibilities to work from anywhere.

(5) We ensure rural communities, local councils and state & federal governments work together to achieve these aims.

It is clear that we live in a world of extraordinary change. This will give rise to many opportunities for rural NSW. Policies that continue to depopulate the inland will waste these opportunities, whilst putting even more pressure on urban infrastructure.

It is a principle of life that what you focus on is what you get. If we focus primarily on our cities, then we will perpetuate the position we find ourselves in – the most heavily urbanized population in the world, with all the attendant problems that flow from it.

IT IS TIME FOR OUR RURAL REPRESENTATIVES TO STAND UP!

We will be truly “fit for the future” when we have a vision, when we define the future that we want for rural NSW.

John Bishton
President
Bingara & District Vision 2020