The planned north west precinct at Dubbo - something that will lead to thousands of new homes in the city - was one of the many projects and ideas discussed at the recent Inland Growth Summit.
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Unlocking a new range of housing options was at the top of the agenda at the two-day summit at Tarona Western Plans Zoo last month, where leading think tanks, economists, and government leaders brainstorm ideas to come up with workable solutions.
Among those visiting the city was regional development minister Kristy McBain who readily admits "housing is the biggest issue in every region in this country" which is why the federal government has invested $10 billion into Housing Australia Future Fund.
Before coming for the Dubbo summit, McBain was "impressed by the frank and fearless advice" from regional development bodies such as Regional Development Australia (RDA) Orana and local governments about what has and has not worked in their regions.
"It's clear we have a way to deal with infrastructure challenges... It's hard to attract workers without housing if they have nowhere to live," McBain, the MP for Eden-Monaro, said.
"For somebody who has grown up in a regional area my entire life and raising my kids in one, I see the inherent challenges. We travel distances to get to a medical specialist, to get to a hospital for surgery, and educational institutions farther away from us."
In McBain's portfolio as a first-time minister in the Albanese government, she said her main priorities are housing for all types of families and circumstances moving to regions as called for under the $10 billion housing policy, improving telecommunications access, and financial solutions to sustain less populated rural towns.
Citing the Dubbo-Orana region as an example, McBain said she was impressed by the region's "natural advantages, the hospital is expanding, and exciting industries coming" thus her priorities are to help this inland region "grow and sustain its people".
RDA Orana chair Brad Cam said they were "pleased to hear" the Albanese government has set aside funds to address complex housing issues in regional towns.
"There are strains and stresses in the housing market particularly affordable housing for key workers that we have identified... [but] it's one of the problems," he said.
"Having the skilled people to fulfill the jobs is another as we have identified many skilled and unskilled vacancies around the region.
"We are in the middle of the Renewable Energy Zone and we cannot realise and fulfill capital projects unless we have the workforce skills and yes they need accommodation."
While migrants from both overseas and interstate are the current sources of workers, Mr Cam said enticing local school leavers to stay home, learn a trade and work here is another priority and some policy changes geared for inland towns are needed to make it possible.
"We are looking at both state and federal governments looking at policy changes consistently identifying funding for growing regions to address the skills and housing needs."
Mr Cam said RDA Orana is knocking on the doors of all levels of government sending them a set of policies that cater to the specific needs of inland towns, not a one-size-fits-all because inland towns differ from the requirements of coastal towns, for example.
"We have a very strong case and we believe our housing report will make them understand not only the impact in Orana but the whole of inland areas," Cam said.
As the Perrottet government's minister for western NSW, Dugald Saunders who addressed the summit said the North West housing project with the Dubbo Regional Council was its response to the housing crisis in the region.
The precinct will allow for the construction of 6000 new homes.
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"[The state government] is supportive of finding solutions for housing because we have an under-supply. Council can't do it alone and the state can't build it alone that's why we are making sure we can combine efforts really well," Mr Saunders said.
"I always spruik the values of the whole region such as Dubbo, Mudgee, and Gulgong for they are amazing places to live, fantastic places to work, fantastic lifestyles and opportunities are all there that's why we need the enabling infrastructure."
The first stage of the North West housing project will see the construction of 900 metres of new road, including three roundabouts and an intersection with the Newell Highway, and it will come with cycleways, transport options, and homes for an estimated 15,000 people expected completed in the next two years.
"Dubbo is experiencing significant pressures in its housing and infrastructure servicing to meet the needs of the growth and investment in the region," Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson said.
"This new development will add much-needed housing stock and ensure a more diverse range of housing can be provided within two kilometres of the Dubbo CBD."
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