FEDERAL Regional Development Minister Simon Crean this week announced that the Federal and New South Wales governments are developing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to drive a partnership approach to economic diversification and growth across Greater Western Sydney.
Mr Crean and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell have agreed in-principle to progress the agreement for a 'place-based approach' in the region, which is home to 2 million people, and to establish a Western Sydney Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committee.
The Minister said a bipartisan agreement will build on work in the past year by Western Sydney Regional Organisations of Councils (WSROC), Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils (MACROC) and the RDA Sydney Committee.
"At the heart of the agreement between the governments will be a commitment to establish a new RDA committee for Greater Western Sydney—which is home to one in every 11 Australians," Mr Crean said.
"A place-based approach working alongside a new RDA will provide opportunities to leverage investments already made and unlock state and federal funding to deliver initiatives that back four key determinants of growth: comparative and competitive strengths, education and skills, access to markets and sustainability and liveability.
"These agreements reflect that metropolitan regions are essential in our regional network, after all Australia is a nation of regions, which includes our capital cities," Mr Crean said, adding that understanding and building on the links and interdependence of regions is important to economic diversification and growth across Australia.
Mr Crean said establishing a new RDA Committee in Greater Western Sydney will allow for more effective identification of projects and strengthen the region's chance of securing investment through the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF).
The Minister invited proponents of projects located in Greater Western Sydney to submit full applications for RDAF – Round 4.
Round 4 is providing $175 million for infrastructure projects that address the identified priorities of Regional Development Australia committees and have a strong regional impact. Grants of between $500,000 and $15 million are available to eligible applicants.
An Expressions of Interest process for Round 4 received nineteen proposed projects for Greater Western Sydney, all of which were selected to proceed to the full applications process. All other RDA Committees had a maximum of only three projects selected to progress to the full application stage.
"The independent RDAF panel will assess and prioritise western Sydney region projects against the same criteria as all other applications," Mr Crean said.
While the Federal-State agreement is finalised, an interim joint reference group, which brings together key stakeholders in the region, will be established to drive the place-based strategy.
Last year, WSROC, which represents 10 local councils in Western Sydney, called for the region to have its own separate Regional Development Authority following the release of a Directions Paper prepared by Arup that described the region as a dynamic and untapped resource, with numerous areas for potential growth and opportunities.
More information regarding Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committees and the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) is available from the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport website at <http://www.regional.gov.au/>.