Regions need to engage with Asia to entice investors
CAN regional Australia make it in Asia?
According to Regional Australia Institute chief executive Jack Archer, a sophisticated strategy is needed to help regional councils, like those in Central Queensland, with the right resources and to build the confidence to engage with Asia.
Mr Archer said some rural mayors were doing a good job, but it was going to take a real proactive effort to make sure the opportunities came to regional Australia.
"We've got great produce, we're clean and green, but so are a lot of other countries," Mr Archer said.
His comments came in the wake of a forum in Canberra last week to examine ways rural towns could tap into agriculture and tourism opportunities stemming from Asia's growing middle class and dining boom.
They were supported by Growing CQ project officer Anne Stunzner who said the CQ region had realised that a number of commodities and value chains linked across the region.
Growing CQ through the Central Queensland Region of Councils - Woorabinda, Livingstone, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Central Highlands and Banana - aims to promote regional priorities and investment opportunities.
"One council alone can offer some investment prospects but a region can offer fundamental growth opportunities... working together makes us all the more powerful.
"Investment opportunities will be directly marketed to external, including Asian investors at a number of upcoming international investment forums. The agreed number one priority for the CQROC is building Eden Bann and Rookwood weirs."
Ms Stunzner said the investment space had radically changed and there was now interest in actual infrastructure as the investment opportunity in Central Queensland.
She said it required all levels of government to stand united behind large-scale infrastructure opportunities.
"This is exactly what we are seeing in Central Queensland at present… it's a new emerging area in that the market forces, policy space, investment appetite and investment opportunities have risen to meet demand," she said.
"I can confidently say that even a year ago there probably would not have been the will and drivers to make investment at this scale happen, however the stars are aligning for Central Queensland and the councils are on board."
Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow sits on the Regional Economic Development Advisory Board for the Local Government Association.
She said discussion at a meeting this week turned to the number of delegations and approaches local governments were receiving and the need for a co-ordinated follow up.
"Many delegations are bypassing the more usual channels and coming straight into the regions," Cr Strelow said.
"It's a no-brainer that we need to be much closer to Asia as the pace of global change accelerates… especially as we move to develop our 'knowledge economy'."