Sustainable Regions Programme: Making good progress

The $100.5m flagship Sustainable Regions Programme, the major initiative under the Stronger Regions, A Stronger Australia statement announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson on 29 August 2001, is now well underway.

The Sustainable Regions Programme, is a four year prototype programme and is operating in the following eight regions.

Campbelltown - Camden, NSW
Wide Bay Burnett, QLD
Far North East, NSW
Playford - Salisbury, SA
Gippsland, VIC
Kimberley, WA
Atherton Tablelands, QLD
North West - West Coast, TAS

The aims of the programme include the following.

  • Provide a national approach to supporting designated regions across Australia to lead their own development in accordance with the locally established priorities
  • Assist regions undergoing major economic, social and environmental change to build a viable foundation for the future
  • Promote a whole of government approach to regions by Commonwealth Government agencies. In designated regions the Federal Government is assisting locally based Advisory Committees established under the programme to achieve the following
  • Formulate and test future development options for the region
  • Identify and support specific activities to promote sustainable development
  • Support community leadership in the development of local solutions
  • Foster new ideas, community energy, drive and self reliance
  • Forge partnerships between the private sector and all three spheres of government

Local Governments are well represented on the locally based Advisory Committees, which have established their administrative arrangements and regional priorities over recent months. To establish regional priority areas for action, the eight Advisory Committees have undertaken both community consultation and reviewed reports and studies of their region. Local Government played an integral part in this process.

The inaugural meeting of the Chairs and Executive Officers of the Sustainable Regions Advisory Committees was held in May 2002.

Minister Anderson took time out from his busy Parliamentary sitting schedule to attend the meeting held at Parliament House. Mr Ken Matthews, the Secretary of the Department, and Mr Peter Yuile, the Deputy Secretary also attended the meeting. Many issues affecting the Sustainable Regions were discussed at the meeting including intergenerational unemployment and ways to retain youth in regional areas.

This meeting confirmed that developing real partnerships with all spheres of government, the community and the private sector is the best approach to tackling major regional issues and regional sustainability. Mr Matthews emphasised the need for cooperation between all levels of government and the key role the Advisory Committee plays as a conduit between the Commonwealth and the community.

The dinner held that evening was well attended by several other Federal Ministers with an interest in regional issues. These included the Hon Wilson Tuckey MP, Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government; the Hon Larry Anthony MP, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs; the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP, Minister for Education, Science and Training; the Hon Warren Truss MP, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, Minister for Forestry and Conservation; the Hon Dr David Kemp MP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage; and the Hon Gary Hardgrave MP, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

Since the May meeting a network of Commonwealth Departments and Agencies has been established to take a whole of government approach to assisting the Sustainable Regions meet their objectives. Members of the network and the Advisory Committees will review the expressions of interest and project applications before making recommendations to Minister Anderson.

In total 16 projects have been approved under the Sustainable Regions Programme in the Atherton and Gippsland regions. This brings a total of over $2.6 million in funding to date, since announcing the programme less than a year ago. Further project proposals in most of the regions are close to being finalised and we expect to make announcements on these shortly.

Where there are large scale regional issues beyond the capacity of the Sustainable Regions Programme, they can be taken forward for consideration by Cabinet.

The key to the Sustainable Regions Programme is its flexibility, allowing the locally established Advisory Committees in concert with the Federal Government to identify and seize opportunities. These will include the tailoring of solutions to meet the priority needs of the regions and the creation of partnerships between all tiers of government as well as the business and community sectors.

Specific information about the Sustainable Regions Programme can be obtained by contacting the relevant Executive/Programme Officers in the regions via the following website at www.dotars.gov.au/regional/ sustainable_regions/contact_details.htm

For further information on Sustainable Regions within New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania contact Bill Dejong, Director, Sustainable Regions - NSW, VIC  & TAS, on (02) 6274 8152 or email Bill.Dejong@dotars.gov.au

For further information on Sustainable Regions within Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia contact Des Harris, Director, Sustainable Regions - North & West, on (02) 6274 8063 or email Des.Harris@dotars.gov.au