Regional Development Australia (RDA) Orana chairman John Walkom thinks the federal government is showing “ongoing faith in our future”.
He was speaking after the government announced continued funding and major changes for the RDA network of 55 committees. “It is great that we will be able to continue the work we are doing as an independent body working with local and state government as well as project proponents,” the chairman said.
This month Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash confirmed funding of the RDA network to the end of 2020 and changes to its direction, operations and appointment of leaders. Her advice followed a review into the committees and “their effectiveness”. It heard from interested parties that the value of the RDA network lay in “networking, facilitation, brokering and advocacy” and not in the development of regional plans.
The review has prompted Minister Nash to tell the committees to turn their attention to finding and negotiating with private companies, not-for-profit organisations and governments in order to boost jobs and investment in their regions. On August 18 Minister Nash said each RDA would acquire a director of regional development who would spearhead efforts to attract investment and jobs. She said for the “first time, clear performance measures will mean practical outcomes of RDAs are properly monitored and measured”. Minister Nash has also signed off on a “more rigorous, merit-based appointments process” for committee members including “chairs” from the end of this year.
“Regions with strong leadership thrive,” Senator Nash said. “I aim to help create strong leadership in our regions so they can build the kinds of communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to,” she said. “Given this, we will be streamlining RDAs and opening applications up for these positions as we seek the best of the best to attract investment and jobs to our regions.”
Mr Walkom said RDA Orana had a “clear role” to help facilitate investment in the region as an independent apolitical organisation. “This announcement means that we will be well-positioned to continue to do that for the next three years and to make a valuable contribution to the region and how it develops,” he said.