Communities in Regional Australia should harness their strengths and identify priority areas for future planning to shape their economic transformation, according to the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report released by Infrastructure Australia today.
The Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report provides government, industry, businesses and the community with a guide to support record migration and further growth, off the back of the 200 per cent increase in growth in Australia’s regional areas in 2019/2020. This regionalisation trend has continued with the first quarter of 2021 being the largest internal migration on record.
In developing this report, Infrastructure Australia collaborated with 48 Regional Development Australia committees to conduct extensive consultation on community views. This was supported by engagement with key regional stakeholders, including businesses, peak bodies and industry groups, to help create a picture of each area’s diverse assets, growth industries and infrastructure requirements.
These region-specific reports provide a lens to highlight and understand opportunities and prioritise investment. The Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report also looks for commonalities to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing to enable proactive planning led by local communities.
Published alongside an interactive map, the report is a starting point for discussion between all parties to inform further planning, policy and investment solutions. Further consultation is being encouraged with the period for comment on this report has been extended. Comments are now requested by 27 May 2022.
Infrastructure Australia Chair Col Murray said: “This is the first time a report of this magnitude has been conducted solely on Regional Australia that localises each area’s strengths and opportunities. It provides a foundation of data, knowledge and community perceptions to support future infrastructure planning, decision-making and network governance across the country.
“Our consultation highlighted that many regions are eager to capitalise on new opportunities and industries. However, they need to have robust, reliable and resilient infrastructure networks to tap into this growth. Governments at all levels, businesses and communities themselves, have acknowledged the need to address these challenges for many years, but too often they work in isolation.
“With the debut of the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps, we aim to focus the future effort on mutually acknowledged needs, leveraging the assets of industry and the community, alongside government. However, this report is the beginning, rather than the end of the journey. We hope to encourage all stakeholders to come forward with solutions for local challenges and seize opportunities for growth, innovation and investment,” Mr Murray said.
Chief Executive Romilly Madew said: “The significant upswing in regionalisation – further accelerated by the pandemic – has compounded pressure on already stretched regional infrastructure assets and networks.
“By drawing out commonalities where they exist, we are aiming to improve information sharing and enable a coordinated, forward-looking view of the challenges and opportunities in Regional Australia. We hope communities embrace the opportunities highlighted in this report and that it becomes a turning point for greater collaboration amongst stakeholders,” Ms Madew said.
Key themes of Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps
- Realising a regional renaissance – expansion of population brings a need to develop new service models and deliver expected infrastructure to continue growth.
- Shared perspectives in changing regions – identification of common themes: unique impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic; a greater need for proactive planning; major projects to be community-led; a changing social landscape; and First Nations communities’ culture and connection to Country.
- Capitalising on Regional Strengths – recognition of existing assets and growth industries that continue to deliver benefit or attract new investment.
- Key existing assets: natural environment, gateway ports, education and research institutions, natural resources, transport infrastructure, strategic location, cultural heritage, climate and topography; health infrastructure, water infrastructure, specialised precincts, energy infrastructure, defence assets, major attractions and tourism brand.
- Key regional growth industries: agriculture, forestry and fishing, tourism, energy, knowledge sector, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, mining, transport, defence and aerospace.
- Prioritising Infrastructure Gaps – identification of three to four priority challenges and opportunities: Infrastructure Gaps most commonly highlighted included availability, diversity and affordability of housing; water security; mobile and broadband connectivity; access to further education and skills training; and connectivity through public transport networks.
- Spotlight on each region – recognition each area’s diversity, opportunities and priorities by the 48 separate reports for further planning and to identify reform and investment options.
About Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps
- Since the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, Infrastructure Australia has been expanding its focus on regional infrastructure policy and projects. In the 2020 Federal Budget, Infrastructure Australia received additional funding for the report.
- Building on recommendations in the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps project identifies and spotlights priority challenges and opportunities across the nation regionally. For each of the 48 regions in the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report there is a summary of its strengths – key existing assets and regional growth industries – and priority Infrastructure Gaps. These regional summaries were developed in close collaboration with governments, industry and communities.
- As part of this, Infrastructure Australia completed a comprehensive engagement program that targeted close to 1,000 community members and industry stakeholders across Australia to capture local perspectives on regional characteristics and challenges.
Further engagement with Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps
- Infrastructure Australia is committed to ensuring the information outlined in the Regional Strengths report is current and accurately reflects the challenges and opportunities in Regional Australia
- Infrastructure Australia is encouraging all stakeholders to provide feedback and additional information to support this work program via the feedback form at infrastructureaustralia.gov.au. The period for comment on this report has been extended. Comments are now requested by 27 May 2022.