The need for Regional Infrastructure Partnerships

Mitchel Hanlon
Written by: Mitchel Hanlon

The regions are experiencing a growth surge. Regional centres such as Tamworth welcome this as it creates a positive feedback loop. More people drive the need for more service industries and professionals to staff them. Think more doctors, dentists, teachers and police. 

So why is this happening? Channelling Bernard Salt, there's no prize for guessing that housing prices in Sydney and even smaller cities such as Newcastle are outside the reach of many. Our low-interest-rate environment isn't helping investors leverage existing property to buy another property that will only ever be rented, i.e. not purchased by a young family.

Another reason is that COVID-19 has tipped the world upside down. If anything, the pandemic has shown that professional workers at least can work almost anywhere. Importantly, bosses now understand that flexibility is mandatory if they want to keep people. 

Many have decided that life is short and what's the point of working and living in an environment that gives no joy. Of course, not everyone can relocate to the regions, but enough to cause the areas to notice.

Whilst this looks great, the surge is placing a strain on many regional centres. There is a housing shortage. Employers have found people are willing to relocate but can't find a house or unit to live in. Every tradesperson in Tamworth is busy, so the trade sector is at full utilisation. Under-utilised tradies from other regions could relocate, but they too are busy. What about more apprenticeships? That takes time, and New apprentices need supervision at least initially, so there's a drop in productivity.

Land availability is another problem. There's not enough land, and bank lending requirements are strict. Tamworth Regional Council is pro-development and supports the property development industry. The sector is seen as an essential economic enabler for the region. It also takes time to extend infrastructure such as roads, water mains, sewer lines, and power to these sites. 

Infrastructure in all its forms needs to be a continuation. The typical stop-start approach doesn't work. The finished build appears too late from when it's required first.

We need a joint approach where industry and government need to come together to ensure the required hospital, road, housing, etc., are available when needed. Not 5 years after.

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