Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Country Week Report

Yesterday (11 August) I attended the first day of Country Week, a major promotion intended to interest Sydney people in the opportunities offered by regional NSW. I had a good time and collected a fair bit of material that I can use on this blog and the main Regional Living Australia site.

I will run this material over the next week or so. But in the meantime, two complaints.

First, certain of the major NSW regional cities - Albury, Wagga, Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst - refused to participate this year. I am not aware of all the details, but apparently they are uncomfortable about participating with other smaller areas and believe that they can do better by cooperating with each other.

I may be proved wrong, but I think that this is just dumb. Yes, they are major centres each with significant attractions, but I doubt that they have the resources to make much impact in a crowded metro marketplace. It seems to me that all they are doing is fragmenting effort to get across the real message about the opportunities offered within regional NSW.

My second complaint relates to the decision by the Queenslanders with the backing of $500,000 in Government money to run a rival expo in Sydney trying to attract skilled people to regional Queensland at exactly the same time as Country Week.

Described by the Queensland Deputy Premier as 'a bit cheeky' (story), the Queensland expo places regional NSW and regional Queensland in direct competition with each other at the same time in the same place for the same group of people, with each expo opened by the respective state premier.

We do not support one part of Regional Australia over another, and certainly the Queensland move made for increased media coverage. But I couldn't help feeling sad for the both the Country Week organisers and the participating regional areas and localities who have spent three years building up Country Week only to face head to head competition from the well funded Queensland machine.

One of the problems in NSW is that the State Government is too absorbed by the problems of Sydney (congestion, problems with the rail system, disputes over motorways) to really focus on the rest of the state.

When NSW Premier Morris Iemma responded to the Queensland expo challenge, his words as reported on Sydney radio all centred on Sydney, the global city, its attractions. Why, the Premier said, would anybody want to leave such a wonderful place for Queensland? Hardly the right message at a time when regional NSW is trying to sell its own story, to encourage Sydney people to consider the regional option.

I was not surprised to learn from Federal Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's speech at the Regional Futures lunch held as part of Country Week that NSW is the worst performing state is terms of usage of the regional migration program. I was surprised at the apparent size of the performance gap between NSW and Victoria or Queensland.

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