Local government: leading job recovery in the bush to ensure a lasting regional renaissance

20 June 2021

A national forum will today look at how rural and regional councils are successfully delivering jobs and economic leadership to ensure the COVID-inspired bush renaissance of 2020-21 is enduring and widespread.

Convened by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), the forum will take the bush’s temperature, examine economic and political trends, and look at further opportunities for councils to partner with state, territory, and federal governments on new job-creating initiatives.

ALGA President Linda Scott said regional Australia has seen an influx of people looking to take advantage of affordable housing and new opportunities to work remotely.   

“The pandemic has shown that people can work from home without any impacts on productivity, and that has helped reverse the long-term trend of young adults moving from regional to metropolitan Australia,” she said.

At the same time, however, some regional economies have been hard hit by coronavirus lockdowns and border closures.

Local governments have responded quickly and effectively to COVID’s economic impacts, creating jobs and partnering with state and federal governments to deliver stimulus measures.

“Councils are investing heavily in local roads, cycleways, parks, and community infrastructure, which is shoring up local communities, creating new jobs for skilled workers, and enticing urban professionals to relocate to the regions,” Cr Scott said

“It’s imperative that local government be supported with increased funding to build on this success.

“All levels of government need to be working together to address the critical issues like a lack of suitable housing options, poor digital connectivity, and transport links.”

Cr Scott said local governments are leading these efforts because they have the clearest understanding of their local communities’ unique requirements.

“Providing them with effective resourcing and partnership opportunities from state and federal governments is the quickest way to clear the way for our regions to thrive,” she said.

Speakers at the forum include Local Government Minister Mark Coulton, journalist and author Gabrielle Chan, and Kim Houghton, the chief economist of the Regional Australian Institute.

Many regional councils have responded quickly to the rental crisis by opening up new residential lots, selling land, and contributing to community housing projects via loans.

“Some innovative things are going on in many places because they [the councils] feel like they’ve got to take some leadership,” Dr Houghton said.

To encourage more innovative thinking, Dr Houghton will provide the forum with an overview of the regional housing market based on the RAI’s data.

ALGA is the national voice of local government, representing 537 councils across the country. Its Regional Co-operation and Development Forum will be held at the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) on 20 June.

The Forum is the curtain-raiser for the 27th National General Assembly of Local Government being staged at the NCCC from 20-23 June.