New RDA committee reforms welcome

The Australian Local Government Association welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement of new reforms intended to improve the focus and operation of Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees.

The measures announced by Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash on Friday include a minor reduction in the number of committees, the establishment of new performance measures to enable improved monitoring of committee activities, and the requirement for the national RDA network to operate under a new charter focused on facilitating investment, innovation and job-creation.

RDA Committees will be revamped with a more rigorous merit-based approach to appointment of Chairs, deputy chairs and committee members, and a new role of Director of Regional Development will be created for each RDA Committee with direct responsibility for delivering the objectives and outcomes specified under the RDA charter.

ALGA president Mayor David O’Loughlin said the reforms would help to eliminate the duplication of planning to ensure initiatives were delivered more  efficiently to locations or regions with specific or unique requirements.

“Local Government has consistently championed the need for greater interest and government support for regional development,” he said, “but one that recognizes the complexity of regional development policy, which minimizes duplication of effort, and which acknowledges Local Government knowledge and experience.”

“I hope that the new focus on recruiting talent and expertise on RDA Committees will help to strengthen links with Local Government,’’ he said.

Ms Nash’s announcement follows consideration of a report into RDAs by former Howard Government Minster Warwick Smith which was delivered to the Government at the end of 2016.

Concerns have long been expressed about the duplication of regional and local planning efforts by RDAs as well as the lack of engagement in some jurisdictions between RDA Committees and local councils.

Mayor O’Loughlin said the inclusion of people on RDA committees with a demonstrated commitment to regional collaboration, a flair for entrepreneurship and an ability to influence and work with governments at federal, state and local levels would help the RDA program achieve its goals of delivering more jobs, greater investment and sustained economic growth to the regions.