NSW Farmers is calling for an $8 billion investment in regional communities that will ensure a lasting legacy of fit-for-purpose infrastructure for the 21st century.
The next New South Wales Government will be well placed to develop world class infrastructure across regional New South Wales to kick start a significant period of economic growth as a result of long-term leases for utility infrastructure and the Snowy Hydro legacy fund. With such a war chest NSW Farmers seeks the adoption of principles to inform infrastructure development that not only respond to the needs of today, but position regional and rural New South Wales to deliver economic benefit to both domestic and international markets.
Road, rail and air infrastructure
Too often the focus for infrastructure investments in New South Wales has been on developing north-south corridors to move people and produce to the markets, including to the Sydney air and sea ports for distribution interstate and overseas. With increasing congestion in the greater Sydney region, significant improvements to east-west road and rail corridors, and strengthened access to connected road, rail and air services to underpin the development of regional hubs, must be a priority for the next, and successive, governments.
As a consequence of technology and safety improvements, the way people and freight move is changing, and the demand for timely and certainty of delivery of fresh food and produce is more critical than ever. As a priority NSW Farmers is calling for commitments to:
Central West to Western Sydney in less than three hours
- maintain existing funding, with indexation, to the Fixing Country Roads and Fixing Country Rail programs
- upgrade regional rail to ensure 25 tonne total axle loading on all regional main lines to reduce supply chain and freight handling costs associated with moving food and fibre from the paddock to the port, and to maximise economic benefits and economies of scale arising from the Australian Government’s Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail
- ensure that the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail delivers the maximum economic benefit and opportunity for communities across regional New South Wales
- remove impediments for the rail transport of grains and other commodities and improve access to the Port of Newcastle
- work with local governments and their road managers to identify, assess and rectify pinch-points and timber bridges that restrict movement of high productivity vehicles and oversize over mass agricultural vehicles within and across local government boundaries and wider regions.
NSW Farmers is calling for a commitment to the goal of a sub-three hour freight journey between Orange and western Sydney, with funding of $2.5 million to investigate ways to achieve this objective. Cutting the time it takes to cross the Blue Mountains will reduce the cost of freighting commodity agricultural products and allow for improvement to the just-in-time supply chains needed for the export of premium goods via the Western Sydney Airport to consumers in Australia and the world.
To achieve a sub-three hour journey, NSW Farmers is calling for:
- expedited development of an express way linking the Bells Line of Road to Sydney’s major road freight infrastructure networks
- exploration of the role of digitisation and automation in improving the efficiency and reliability of corridors
- optimisation of existing transport corridors, with integrated strategies for freight and passenger movements.
Eighty per cent of New South Wales’ agricultural produce comes from west of the Great Dividing Range, yet the transport corridors linking western New South Wales to ports in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong act as a significant barrier to further growth.
The Great Dividing Range, often referred to as ‘the sandstone curtain’, has always acted as a barrier between regional and metropolitan New South Wales, particularly for the transport of food and fibre from paddock to market. The potential value of New South Wales’ agricultural production is severely hamstrung by the quality of the supply and value chains that service it.
The central west is one of New South Wales’ premier agricultural regions, with a gross value of production of close to $2 billion per annum, or 13 per cent of the region’s economy. It also hosts a vibrant food processing and manufacturing sector, with a strong emphasis on local produce and wine that has spawned a strong hospitality and night time economy in regional centres such as Orange and Bathurst.
Now is the right time to consider investing in upgraded, modern carriageways and rail corridors that can improve the transportation of food and fibre from western New South Wales to the markets and ports of the eastern seaboard.
Regional Food Hubs
Infrastructure delivery must also be a catalyst for broader regional development. There are additional opportunities in regional New South Wales to attract investment and achieve synergies between farmers, manufacturers and service providers, backed by active support from local and state governments.
The vitality of the movement in regional New South Wales towards distinctive regional brands and artisan manufacturing is indisputable. For example, clusters are emerging in the Bega and south coast, Orange and the central west, Griffith and the Riverina, Lismore and the Coffs Harbour/Port Macquarie regions.
NSW Farmers believes a systematic approach to supporting regional food industry clusters is key to achieving commercial scale and critical mass. It also offers a credible pathway to achieving decentralisation and regional growth targets. The world is on the cusp of a leap in demand for high value, trusted and specialised foods. Our farmers can grow the goods – a food cluster approach is essential to capturing a larger share of the end value in regional communities.
A commitment to a major study is required to identify:
- the distinctive baskets of high value goods that groups of regional farmers and manufacturing partners can most sustainably and profitably produce, including opportunities to shift to different crops and production systems,
- specific production, processing, energy, water and freight needs of the targeted goods,
- opportunities to align local planning and approval processes alongside transport, energy and freight infrastructure investment, and tourism and regional marketing and branding strategies.
The study, which must be industry led, would draw on existing data available from industry and involve collaboration between government, community and industry stakeholders.
Further information on this initiative is contained on page 17 ($5 million to link the Western Sydney Airport Fresh Food Precinct with regional food hubs).
Education, health and telecommunications infrastructure
The building of schools and hospitals are vital for the health and wellbeing of regional and rural areas. A plan of work to deliver world class services to those outside the major metropolitan areas must be delivered to keep faith with regional residents. Equally important is the delivery of place based services, including tele health and online education, to make sure that the health and wellbeing of residents of regional New South Wales is at least equivalent to those in cities and major regional centres.
To ensure that no one is left behind, NSW Farmers is calling for the state government, together with the Australian Government, to redouble its commitment to upgrading access to telecommunications, data and voice services in rural and regional New South Wales. At its most basic this requires adequate funding to reduce and eventually remove mobile black-spots, along with a focus on ensuring internet and data services are accessible to all, delivering the speed and bandwidth equatable to metropolitan users.
Technology based connectivity is not a luxury – it is an essential tool for business for farmers large and small, and for our primary producers to continue to produce high quality product with global market demand, it must be reliable and available to all.