THE Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) has welcomed a Parliamentary Select Committee's call for greater investment in Australia's rural and regional towns, citing their report, "Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia's Future", as further clear evidence of the need for an integrated national settlement strategy.
Speaking after the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation report published its findings in late June, Chief Policy Officer Rolf Fenner said PIA had consistently called for the Commonwealth to acknowledge the wider implications of its policy actions and investment decisions and to better promote regional development.
"PIA believes governments need to adequately fund research into the drivers of population change and settlement patterns in regional areas – and to empower local communities to promote sustainable development and a better quality of life through integrated land use policies or spatial planning," Mr Fenner said.
In its submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into the Australian Government's role in the Development of Cities in 2017, PIA repeated its call for a clear spatial planning framework to guide and promote regional development and guard against growing inequality between city and country Australia.
Mr Fenner said efforts to counter regional inequality needed to go beyond the traditional emphasis on direct tax/transfer redistribution and pork-barrelling grant programs – and focus more on geographically appropriate and targeted investments, such as infrastructure provision, training and job creation activities, and strategic urban and regional planning frameworks endorsed by all levels of government.
"It's pleasing the inquiry grasps what PIA has long understood: namely that our rural and regional communities must be great places to live and work if Australia is to continue to prosper as a nation," Mr Fenner said.
"The liveability or amenity of a city, town or community is essentially how it feels and looks: the choice, quality and location of buildings, the parks, streetscapes, and the access to shops, schools, and recreational facilities," Mr Fenner said.
"If we fail to invest in amenity, we will also fail to entice people to live or invest in regional Australia," he said.
Mr Fenner also said PIA had concerns about moves to relocate government agencies from capital cities to regional centres when these decisions were made without reference to a strategic planning framework or an appreciation of the wider regional or national ramifications.
He concluded that the committee's findings vindicated PIA's current strong advocacy approach for a national conversation around the future character of all of Australia's cities, towns and regions leading to a sustainable and integrated national settlement strategy.
Photo: 'Australia seen from space at night' / Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA/GSFC / Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.