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Regional NSW needs more than Departmental window dressings

20 April, 2020
Regional NSW needs more than Departmental window dressings Image

Member for Barwon, Roy Butler is calling on the NSW Government to give the new Department of Regional NSW proper powers and put it to work. 

The Deputy Premier's announcement states that the Department's first job will be delivery of recent bushfire, COVID-19 stimulus and drought initiative packages.

“The current description of tasks for this Department is simply Government business as usual with a grander title. Regional NSW needs more than that, it needs a Department located in regional NSW, working for regional NSW,” said Mr Butler.

“If the taxpayer is going to spend money on this exercise, there are a number of tasks I want to see this Department put to work on - the formation of COVID-19 restart committees; the design and implementation of resowing and restocking grant; the transfer of older Rural Assistance Authority loans to the newer lower interest loans; a comprehensive wild dog management strategy; recommitment to the Regional Development Australia (RDA) model; regional telecommuting model and a tourism trail program.

“These tasks will have real tangible benefit to communities in Barwon and right across the State.”

Mr Butler is also calling on the NSW Government to properly establish this Department, and is prepared to do the legislative groundwork if they don’t.

“The Department of Regional NSW needs to be more than a media release - we’ve already had one ‘media release Department’ in the form of the Office of Drought Response, a cruel act of false hope from the NSW Government. 

“To have serious weight and legitimacy the Department of Regional NSW must have an allocation of administrative acts, it must have proper lawful instruction and a description in law of its tasks.

“Doing this will allow proper budget allocation as well as accountability to the Parliament for its performance.

“It is my intention to bring forward legislation in the Parliament to be voted on to give this Department the legitimate power it needs to properly serve regional NSW. This power would include authority to pursue regional development through legislation and give them a seat at the cabinet table,” said Mr Butler. 

“Part of this legislation would include terms for a formal committee structure with secretariat provided by Regional Development Australia (RDA) and memberships based around the geographical areas defined by the Joint Organisation of Councils including business and community representation as well as membership by the local Members of Parliament.”

List of tasks that need to be immediately pursued

• The formation of COVID-19 restart committees based around the Joint Organisation of Councils but including small business, agriculture and tourism representatives. Local Members of Parliament or their delegates should be members of these Committees.

• The design and implementation of a resowing and restocking grant, to enable farmers to restart their own business as well as the local economy as quickly and effectively as possible.

• The transfer of older Rural Assistance Authority loans to the newer lower interest loans. A freeze on repayments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The development and implementation of a comprehensive wild dog management strategy to allow strategic dog proof fencing of large areas of north-west New South Wales. This would include funding processes that can be repaid over time, more comprehensive baiting programs with reporting back to the Department of Regional NSW.

• The recommitment of NSW to the Regional Development Australia (RDA) model.

• The development of a regional telecommuting model that allows for proper decentralisation of Government to the regions. 

• The development and implementation of a tourism trail program that includes the capacity for infrastructure funding and capacity building funding for potential tourist operators.

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