The Chair of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Sunshine Coast has welcomed the federal government’s $4.3 billion budget commitment to regional Australia including a further $20.3 million to support the national RDA network and $4 million for the MyRegion website.
The Chair of RDA Sunshine Coast said the budget was necessarily pragmatic and restrained in order to achieve an over-riding need to return to surplus in two years yet significantly boosted investment in education and training to address anticipated skills shortages as prosperity returns. “In the nation’s patchwork economy, our region must now do everything we can to help position ourselves for recovery and that includes making the most of education and training opportunities”, she said.
“Of particular interest to the Sunshine Coast, the 2011 budget tackles anticipated skills shortages for future workforce needs. The Sunshine Coast unemployment rate is 6.4 per cent compared to a smoothed state average of 5.6 per cent. However this potential labour pool could be eroded significantly in coming years as highly skilled local people are lured to the booming resources sector.
“To counteract this loss of skilled workers, RDA committees will be focussing on vocational education and training initiatives to boost this region’s productive capacity. This is an intelligent and tailored response to contemporary regional challenges”.
The 2011 budget includes $1.8 billion over six years for critical infrastructure upgrades to hospitals and health services, $500 million over five years to strengthen regional higher education and vocational training, $110 million over four years for regional university campuses and $916 million for the first projects under the Regional Infrastructure Fund.
In announcing $20.3 million to strengthen the RDA network over the next four years, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government Simon Crean said “The additional funding will support the national network of 55 RDA committees in engaging with their communities and providing advice to all levels of government. This is in addition to the $15 million provided annually to the regional network and the $4 million funding boost for 2010-11.”
The Chair said this additional funding recognised the hard work and success of the RDA network in consulting with regional communities on emerging regional priorities to date. “RDA committees are made up of voluntary local champions who understand the challenges, opportunities and priorities of our regional communities. We act in a critical advisory role between the three levels of government and with regional industries and communities.
“The advice of RDA Sunshine Coast to the federal government about our regional priorities and unique challenges is based on a strong understanding of our region. We are pleased to have a key role in the Australian Government’s renewed commitment to regional Australia as it strives to embed regionalism into government policy and decision-making in a way that can’t be unpicked.”
The Chaier said that the $4 million funding for the national MyRegion website would be a valuable tool for regional communities and decision makers. “It means we will be able to click on the Sunshine Coast region and see the details of major government spending and investment in this region. This will improve transparency and accountability of government expenditure in our region and promote informed discussion about regional priorities.”