Moree businesswoman Sascha Estens is helping lead the charge in securing a better deal for regional NSW, using her passion and knowledge to highlight some of the issues people face outside city centres.
The founder of Rabbit Hop Films – an independent film production company dedicated to telling the stories of rural Australia – has always been passionate about promoting regional areas, and that passion saw her invited to join a panel to launch the state government’s 20-year economic vision for regional NSW.
Ms Estens joined NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro in Bathurst on Monday, July 30 for the announcement of $4.2 billion as part of the economic plan, which focusses on connectivity and water security.
Ms Estens’ business is based from her home in Moree and, as a result, she regularly travels for work and requires reliable, high speed internet.
She was asked to join Monday’s panel – which included NSW CWA CEO Danica Leys, Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle, and Maverick Biosciences COO Ben Rogers – as a representative of regional NSW.
“I was a living example, and someone who is passionate about regional Australia and runs a business from there,” she said.
“I was there to talk about the importance of connectivity in terms of the internet and airlines in regional NSW and about how we can recruit young people back to our regions.”
Ms Estens is helping to promote Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association’s ‘Join the Ag Revolution’ campaign, creating videos to encourage young people to consider a career in agriculture.
“Join the Ag Revolution is all about attracting people to these regions,” she said.
“We’ve started the campaign to sell agriculture as a lifestyle.
“Agriculture is entering into its prime, once we get through this drought, and it can provide the answer to the climate change issue and sustainmability issues.
“What we need to deliver that is smart, young people joining agriculture. Agriculture involves robotics, mechatronics, biosciences … we have those things but we don’t have young people coming through.
“The point is to attract people out of school and university to want to do ag.”
However, Ms Estens said in order to attract young people, regional areas must have the means to keep them.
“In a growing digital age where entrepreneurs can work from nearly anywhere, if we want to keep them in our communities or attract them from the cities then we need to provide better support and connectivity,” she said.
One of the big issues in regional NSW is a lack of reliable internet.
Having lived in America and just recently returned from a trip to Canada, Ms Estens believes Australia is way behind in terms of connection, speed and cost.
“In America it was cheap and everywhere you went there was very good wifi,” she said.
“I put a tower on my house because internet is so important for me. I’m bouncing off council’s tower, but it goes down a lot which is really hard. I need high speed to upload and download videos etc.
“That was a huge cost.”
However, Ms Estens believes Moree is lucky compared to other towns.
“One of my friends who lives near Cowra had to give up her online psychology degree because her internet wasn’t fast enough,” she said.
“In this day and age, that’s just not good enough.”
Another critical element to attract and keep people in rural and regional areas is access to a reliable air service, which provides a link to city centres.
Moree is once again going through a tender process to award a two-year license to an airline carrier for the Moree to Sydney air service.
During last week’s event, Ms Estens highlighted the struggles the Moree community has had over the years in fighting for a reliable service which is so crucial for the whole region.
“Businesses here rely on it,” she said.
“It’s not just to go on holidays, if we don’t have that, people can’t connect.
“I use that flight all the time and there’s so many people on it, businesses coming to connect with our agribusinesses.
“We have a lot of health professionals flying in and people that need to go to Sydney for health reasons.
“The community relies on that service and it actually contributes a lot of money to the economy. Agriculture in the Moree community alone produces over $1.6 billion to our economy. So many incredible businesses are based in Moree and surrounding communities and without a reliable air service it will be difficult for them to stay.”
The state government’s 20-year vision outlines 10 key ‘engine industries’ that will drive growth in regional NSW and sets a framework for how the government should direct its investment.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it will provide the infrastructure, services and support regions need to thrive and at the centre will be a new generation of nation-building projects enabled by the $4.2 billion Snow Hydro Legacy Fund.
Ms Estens is hopeful that this commitment will help address connectivity issues and praised the Premier and Deputy Premier for putting regional NSW into the spotlight.
“I was incredibly honoured to be part of it all and that they believed in me to tell the story of regional NSW,” she said.