THE NSW government’s Decentralisation Taskforce chairman Richard Torbay is confident of attracting more government departments to regional areas.
The taskforce met in Tamworth yesterday to hear submissions from groups including the Association of Mining Related Councils, Namoi Councils, Tamworth Business Chamber, local Country Women’s Association branches and Evocities.
Members of the taskforce were member for Northern Tablelands Mr Torbay, member for Bathurst and parliamentary secretary for the Deputy Premier Paul Toole, member for Lismore and deputy speaker Thomas George, member for Port Stephens, parliamentary secretary for regional planning Craig Baumann and member for Albury Greg Aplin.
Tamworth was one of only two regional areas to host a consultation, with the other to be held in Albury and there will be two held at Parliament House in Sydney.
Mr Torbay said there had been many “terrific successes” as part of the decentralisation process, including Glen Innes now home to the Infringement Processing Bureau, which relocated to the New England from Blacktown.
“Staff were offered transfers and some took them up, but most of the jobs came from the local community,” he said.
“Regional communities are screaming out for these opportunities.”
He said a lot more could be done and the taskforce hoped to get these terrific opportunities for rural and regional communities.
Tamworth Business Chamber president Tim Coates said he spoke to the taskforce about issues including how current programs, including relocation grants, opportunities with payroll tax deductions and employing new staff, could be spent in a different way to encourage people to come to the bush, the barriers faced in the region including the high cost of fuel and electricity and pushed for the decentralising of partial departments, rather than whole departments because “we wouldn’t like to have all our eggs in one basket.”
Mr Coates said it had to be cost-effective for people to move to the country to conduct business.
He said he was pleased the taskforce was manned by five regionally-based MPs and was very appreciative of their time.
“I think they’re listening to everyone very carefully and getting a lot of the same answers,” he said.
“We are all on the same wavelength and it’s good to see this representation in the country.”
Mr Torbay named departments including water, emergency services and areas of education that could be relocated to rural and regional areas.
He said any relocation of government departments that hadn’t been as successful as the Glen Innes situation were probably due to a lack of planning, early notification and issues that were not properly considered, which would be addressed by the taskforce.
“We are the solution to the overdevelopment of metropolitan areas,” he said.
Mr Torbay said items like the relocation grant and regional jobs programs could be used in better ways through this, which would be included in the recommendations the taskforce would make.
“We won’t be shy in making recommendations to the Deputy Premier and government,” he said.
“We think the country communities can do better in putting up their hands for these opportunities.”
He said they planned to present their recommendations to the NSW Deputy Premier by the end of March.