Last week I attended the Regional Development Australia Inland Growth Summit at Dubbo's Lazy River Estate.
The theme of the day was 'more jobs than people', and indeed this has been the theme for our region for many years (notwithstanding the drought and COVID-19).
The NSW Government is in some ways exacerbating that problem, in the sense that we're pushing to move more jobs to this region.
We've already announced Department of Regional NSW jobs for Dubbo, we're promoting other public sector roles as 'regional preferred', and the department is establishing a concierge service to work with the private sector to bring more businesses, jobs and people to the bush.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have reminded us that our jobs - indeed even big corporates - can be based anywhere.
A recent survey by the Regional Australia Institute showed that about one in five city dwellers would like to relocate to the country, with more than half of those keen to make the switch within the next 12 months.
But these people need somewhere to live, and fast.
Dubbo's residential vacancy sits at just 0.6 per cent as of January, 2021, after falling as low as 0.3 per cent in September last year. In the Narromine region in January, residential vacancies were at 0.9 per cent, and in the Mudgee area, the rate was just 1.3 per cent.
This is backed up by anecdotal evidence.
If we don't act soon, our region could miss out on a golden opportunity to attract hundreds, if not thousands, of the city-dwellers keen to make the move to regional NSW.
I'm calling on councils in the Dubbo electorate to look at the ways they can assist the influx of people looking to move to regional centres, whether they be in the market to purchase or rent a property.
Crucially, this property needs to be affordable.
It's hard to provide jobs and attract people if there's nowhere for them to live, and councils need to look at not only opening up more land for development, but just as importantly the provision of more medium-density housing options, as we look to cater for a variety of age groups and employment sectors.
The time to act is now.
Registrations are now open for the NSW Government's Dine and Discover initiative, which provides four $25 vouchers for every NSW resident over 18 to spend on dining and experiences.
Only registered businesses will be able to take advantage of this stimulus package.
For more information, and to find out if your business is eligible, go to https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/register-business-dine-discover-nsw