Every generation of regional Victorians has had to adapt to change. From the expansion of regional cities during the post-war boom, to the increased exposure of manufacturing and agriculture industries to global competition, each generation has faced and dealt with significant economic, social and environmental shifts. Each time, government has had to renew its approach, working in new and different ways with regional industries and communities to build prosperity and create opportunity in regional Victoria.
Regional and rural Victoria is now experiencing another wave of profound change with the continued rise of Asia, rapid advances in technology and infrastructure, fierce international competition, the impacts of climate change and the need to transition our economy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ways that grow the economy and increase jobs.
This Review recommends a new approach to regional development, one that is able to meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities of the early 21st century. It recommends 48 policy reforms – spanning transport and planning, industry and innovation policy, trade and investment, education and skills, and regulation reform. While there are no ‘silver bullets’, collectively this policy agenda can make a real difference in helping regional industries and communities build prosperity in the decades ahead.
Equally important, the report recommends fundamental changes to improve governance and service delivery in regional Victoria. Policy reform is important, but will only have impact if the machinery to implement it is in good working order. In recent years, too little has been done to listen to – and act on – the voice of regional Victoria in State Government. This has to change. The seven recommended governance reforms would ensure the ideas in regional strategic plans are heard ‘loud and clear’ within government and actively considered for funding in the Budget process.
A further six recommendations will reinvigorate service delivery, ensuring regional businesses and communities are better supported to grow and prosper.