Geraldton takes the lead in regional capital discussion at Senate Inquiry

An aerial shot of Geraldton’s CBD, Marina, Foreshore and Point Moore.

An aerial shot of Geraldton’s CBD, Marina, Foreshore and Point Moore.

The City of Greater Geraldton will be calling on the Federal Government to look at the future role and contribution of regional capitals to Australia during its formal submission to the Senate Inquiry being held in Geraldton on Wednesday 28 October 2015.

The City will be presenting evidence to the Senate Inquiry that regional capitals jointly generate $225 billion per annum – or more than 15 per cent of national economic activity – yet there is no consistent national policy dedicated to developing these cities.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor, Shane Van Styn says the Inquiry is a golden opportunity to communicate to the Federal Government what the issues are and how we believe they can support Geraldton as a regional capital through more equitable funding and relevant regulations.

"The time for a rethink is now. We have made a clear call to action – our national leaders must take a good look at the potential that sits outside the urban growth boundaries of our capital cities – and commit support to sustainably growing regional capitals like Geraldton.”

Regional capitals are home to almost four million people and service the needs of another four million Australians who live in surrounding areas. Just over one-third of Australians rely on having a socially thriving regional capital to meet their everyday needs.

Mayor Van Styn says the City’s submission focused on the functional role of a ‘regional hub’ that Geraldton plays to towns and settlements throughout the dispersed Mid West region.

“For example, the provision of infrastructure and services including a range of cultural, sporting, transport, retail and other amenities for our outlying communities and non-residents is costly and should be recognised and compensated by other spheres of government.

“Also, major infrastructure projects that would enable significant industry growth in the region and nation such as the Geraldton north-south Outer By-Pass and the 330kv power line have been put on hold due to financial constraints.” 

Mayor Van Styn also said projects such as these should receive priority investment from the State and Federal Governments as nation building projects. 

“As we are subject to inflexible regulatory arrangement we, as a local government, are limited in our ability to raise the funds we need to provide the services our community expects,” he said.

“We have also found that inaccurate census data, which underpins vital Commonwealth funding and investment has resulted in the reduction in the size of our hospital.  Even though evidence clearly indicates the population of our City region is growing, not declining, the new hospital was built with fewer beds not more.

“Although the population growth the City has been experiencing in past years is supported by our broad industry base, the reluctance of banks and other financial institutions to invest in regional capitals and industries is preventing further job creation.”

Regional Capitals Australia Chair and Mackay Regional Council Mayor, Deirdre Comerford, presented at the first hearing in Geelong in August, and told the Inquiry that Australia’s four biggest cities are projected to grow in population by about 45 per cent by 2031, adding to social and infrastructure pressures.

“Not only can regional capitals relieve some of this pressure and ease the squeeze, they can also increase output, further boosting national productivity gains,” said Mayor Comerford.

“In fact, 25 per cent of these centres are growing faster than the national average, with one million additional people projected to live in a regional capital in less than ten years.

“Regional capitals can play a critical role in the future prosperity of the nation, with the support of national policies that seek to lift the productivity, population and liveability of these key centres.

“RCA believes these policies must focus on providing infrastructure for better economic outcomes and social amenity; access to communications for better domestic and international connectivity; and education and skills development that lead to jobs of the future and ensuring that no-one gets left behind.”