Water security and the drought were key topics discussed during Namoi Unlimited’s successful advocacy trip to Canberra, which saw federal government representatives briefed on the region’s strategic priorities, including; education, electricity, water security, telecommunications, trade and investment.
Recognising the importance of water for the region, Namoi Unlimited will begin work soon on a project to establish the region’s urban and rural water needs into the future. Chairperson of Namoi Unlimited and Mayor of Gunnedah Shire Council, Jamie Chaffey says, “if we’re serious about becoming one of Australia’s most productive food bowls, we need to understand what water is required.” While explaining the project to Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Richard Colbeck, councillor Chaffey noted “the importance of planning now so we can identify infrastructure needs and hurdles to growth.”
The two-day trip to Canberra also included a meeting with Special Drought Envoy Barnaby Joyce, which was attended by the five Namoi Council leaders and their General Managers. Discussion focused on the role local government plays providing drought support, projects to stimulate local economies as the agricultural sector struggles, and what lessons all three tiers of government can learn from the current drought.
Reflecting on the advocacy trip, councillor Chaffey described the agenda as “ambitious, worthwhile and reassuring.” Adding that one consistent message from all ten meetings was the need for councils to work together. “A regional approach to projects and planning is applauded, and organisations like Namoi Unlimited with a clear and strategic focus are very much welcomed in Canberra.”
Other regional priorities discussed include;
- The need for a university campus in the region, with Namoi Unlimited heartened by Education Minister Dan Tehan’s advice that the current freeze of university places has a deadline. This means Namoi Unlimited can continue to pursue a business case with its university partners.
- Enabling and connecting infrastructure, including a plan to align road projects to drive efficiencies and deliver freight corridors.
- Strategies to increase populations and growth with a focus on attracting and retaining skilled workers.
- The need for affordable energy and reliable telecommunications.
- The case for increased funding and recognition was made to Minister for Local Government and Decentralisation Bridget McKenzie.