Pracsys is fortunate enough to be involved in a number of regional projects which seek to understand and address a range of historic and emerging issues. We find the STEEP methodology (Social – Technological – Economic – Environmental – Political) to be a particularly useful tool to help identify and categorise issues.
Recently I’ve been monitoring regional issues making the news and wanted to share some information I’ve found useful.
The Future of Resources
With mining costs rising, commodity prices declining and some investment being deferred, reports suggest that the mining boom could be over in just two years. This highlights the risk in relying heavily on a resource based economy (at local, state and federal levels). Continued development of agribusiness and other industries of the future is required to ensure we are not hamstrung by downturns in resource prices. The National Food Plan will help to progress discussions in this particular area.
Foreign Ownership and Investment
A lot of political and media attention is focused towards this issue at the moment.
- Coalition wants to tighten foreign investment rules (3 Aug 2012)
- Farmers call for foreign ownership register (4 Aug 2012)
- Smith warns on selling off farming land (7 Aug 2012)
- MPs call for comment on farmland foreign investment (9 Aug 2012)
In speaking with people working and living in the regions, the impact of foreign ownership and investment is still a relative unknown. It is not necessarily a negative thing; however the uncertainty surrounding potential impacts and a lack of oversight appears to be a cause of concern.
The Coalition has released a policy discussion paper seeking community and industry comment on a number of proposals relating to foreign investment in Australian agricultural land and agribusiness.
Town Centre Revitalisation
Several regional towns recently received Royalties for Regions funding under the Supertowns program. Most of these towns identified revitalisation projects as a priority in preparing for future population growth. Last week Pracsys attended the Town Centre Revitalisation Conference in Esperance to discuss the future of regional town centres, how to undertake town centre revitalisation projects and engage effectively with the community.
Jason McFarlane from Pracsys presented at the conference on how to use a systems based approach to strategy in such projects. The challenge is in ensuring that towns not only have the capacity to accommodate growth but the drivers to ensure long-term prosperity.
Key Worker Housing
There are well publicised issues in North West but many areas across the state are experiencing issues with the affordability, availability and quality of key worker housing.
Some regional locations are experiencing housing affordability issues due to emerging agglomerations of strategic employment in a local resource project. In this case the role and function of the location may need to mature to cater for an increase in demand for key worker housing.
Others may be experiencing a gradual decline in population and a poor standard of existing housing. In this situation, the minimum standard of housing may need to be increased to ensure urban amenity remains at an acceptable level to retain any key workers.
The carbon tax and carbon farming are potential game changers. The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) allows farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions. The extent of carbon farming and what this means for the regions is yet to be fully understood.
As you can see there are a lot of pressures facing regional Australia but opportunities are also opening up (e.g. alternative power generation, food bowls etc). I’d certainly be interested in hearing from those of you with first-hand experience in any of these areas, or others that I haven’t mentioned.