POSITIONING AIA TO SUPPORT REGIONAL AUSTRALIA
Tue 02, Oct 2018
Regional Australia has been the engine room of the economy with around 30 per cent of our annual GDP generated here. Rural and regional Australia is home to high quality food, fibre and resources, some of the highest quality in the world, and these make up more than 60 per cent of the goods Australia sells on the global market. Most of our iconic tourist attractions are in regional Australia and 43 cents out of every dollar spent by a tourist in Australia goes to a regional business. Governments recognise the importance of the regions and are positioning resources in support of their development in specific ways (https://bit.ly/2rPNOXx).
Last week I travelled to the Riverina of NSW and met with government, businesses, and consultants, two of which were Ag Institute Australia (AIA) members. As a presenter at the Regional Development Australia Riverina forum (with my government hat on), I spent a day in the town of Temora, a place I am familiar with from many years ago when I went to school there. The focus that town now has on promoting development was quite outstanding. The regional development underway is extensive. Several million dollars have been invested in the upgrading of the former NSW Agricultural Research Station through the creation of the Temora Agriculture Innovation Centre (note: see the separate article in this issue of the Weekly Alert featuring another of our board members reporting on the student Crop Competition at the same centre also last week).
Farmlink, Local Land Services and Precision Ag all have offices collated at the centre. Farmlink, an organisation representing more than 800 growers across the region, is now running field days with more than 300 attendees. There are investments also been made by corporate farms to establish a new egg production farm, and the establishment of two new large-scale solar farms with more than 100 MW total generation capacity within the same shire, is also underway. These investments alone are valued at more than $150 million. The town is also well positioned to gain economic benefits from the north-south inland rail that is currently under construction. I suspect that Temora is not an outlier and that regional development is taking off in many parts of regional Australia.
When I enquired about the types and number of events for agricultural and related professionals in the region, it was evident that there is a diversity of professional forums, farm leader groups, rural and agricultural employer meetings, and meetings where people in the agricultural sector engage to build community, capability and knowledge. This competition, while somewhat challenging from an AIA perspective, helps regions to drive up productivity, innovation and market competitiveness. When you consider this diversity, it becomes evident why the AIA struggles to get a look in supporting its member base, given the competition for professional development hours and spend.
So how do we, the AIA, keep relevant to our members in regional areas? What could the AIA do to turn around this situation? What do members expect of the AIA in this regard? If you live in a regional area, what would you like to see and how would you be part the change you want to see?
I would like to hear members views on this topic so please send me a note and share your thoughts.