Sydney Futures Forum Misses The Point

Echo 10 June 2004

Sydney Futures Forum Misses The Point

With the array of cuts being made and contemplated for regional NSW, I felt the following opinion piece of The Nationals Leader, Andrew Stoner following the recent Sydney Futures Forum, was an accurate highlight of a problem with a solution lying in rural NSW. The problem for Sydney can be overcome by distributing population increases across the State by formulating a State-wide plan to take an active role in creating and funding opportunities to encourage people to both stay in an move to country areas. The following is an extract of Mr Stoner's piece.

One of the main solutions to Sydney's future sustainability has been completely overlooked by the Carr Labor Government's recent Sydney Futures Forum. The picture painted that Sydney will soon be unable to cope with the demands placed upon it by population growth, predicted to reach 5 million by 2022, is concerning. Yet, by focusing exclusively on Sydney, the Forum has missed the obvious solution. Water shortages, traffic congestion and pollution in Sydney could be overcome if population levels were more evenly distributed across the State. Instead of holding a forum to plan for the city of Sydney's future, Labor should be planning for the entire State. This debate is bigger than Sydney. Sydney is just one piece of the puzzle. Premier Carr waxes lyrical about Sydney bursting at the seams but governments, indeed his government, have a part to play in creating and funding opportunities to encourage people to both stay in and move to country areas. Sadly, the Carr Labor Government has failed to realise this over the past nine years, neglecting to provide the necessary framework, let alone any sort of vision for the future development of NSW as a whole. Indeed, a raft of recent decisions, such as Labor's axing of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail service, the tax hike on the State's Clubs, the closure of grain rail lines, a $100 million cut to the roads budget, the loss of 600 jobs due to the merger of Agriculture, Fisheries, State Forests and Mineral Resources, the slashing of business assistance grants and other programs run by the Department of State and Regional Development, the deferral of country towns water supply and sewerage funding, the extension of the land tax net and the new stamp duty provisions point to an intention to destroy growth in country NSW. The future of our country communities, and indeed Sydney, is inextricably linked with the State Government's willingness and ability to attract businesses, jobs and opportunities to rural NSW, and to provide adequate services and infrastructure in regional areas. The equitable distribution of opportunities, services and infrastructure is essential. If Mr Carr took his tunnel vision off Sydney for just one moment he would realise that the solution to Sydney's over-population woes is indeed also the solution to many of the problems experienced in rural NSW.

Local Business Enterprise Centres Lost

The Carr Government has delivered a slap in the face for small businesses in rural and regional NSW this week, with the announcement that 50 Business Enterprise Centres (BEC) would be replaced by 18 centralised offices. This is another serious blow for local communities. Lismore and Casino have very specialised infrastructure in place to meet the needs of our own local community and provide the FREE Business Advisory Services. With this successful infrastructure in place - a tremendous amount of knowledge, skills and experience is tied up with our local BEC's and their staff. This action is characteristic of this Carr Labor Government who are intent on removing essential services from rural areas and once this infrastructure is removed and disbursed it will never again be assembled in the future to recreate the service. This announcement is a result of the Carr Labor Government slashing the NSW Regional Development Budget to the tune of $2.5 million dollars next year and further cuts thereafter. The BEC is a catalyst for community based projects that are responsive to communities needs, it is the first port of call for information to a large number of community organisations and an effective referral point. Lost of these offices will impact greatly on our local business sector.

Rail Inquiry

This week numerous witnesses have appeared before the Legislative Council's General Purpose Standing Committee No 4, who undertook regional visits as part of the inquiry into the closure of the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Line. A final report will available on the Committee's website when it is tabled in Parliament.

NSW Ombudsman Staff Visit

Staff of the NSW Ombudsman's office will be in Ballina on 23 to 24 June to deliver a number of education and training sessions which may be of interest to the public.
"Towards Best Practice" (Wed 23 June) - complaints management workshop for managers providing skills, knowledge and tools to implement effective systems and practices for managing complaints in community service organisations. One day workshop, cost $95.
"The Rights Stuff" (Thurs 24 June) - seminar for people using the community services and their supporters. This is free and registration is essential.
"Information Session" (Thurs 24 June) - this will be a general information session about the role of the NSW Ombudsman (eg his broad jurisdiction in relation to NSW Public authorities, child protection, police, correctional services and in particular community services and is open to everyone.

More information is available on tollfree 1800 451 524.

Lismore Contact Details:

Office: 55 Carrington Street  LISMORE
Postal: PO Box 52  LISMORE  NSW  2480
Telephone: 02 6621 3624
Facsimile: 02 6622 1403
Email: lismore@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Murwillumbah Contact Details:

Telephone: 02 6672 7577