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Achieving Regional Economic Development with Less Water

Securing the economic future of regional NSW in the face of water reform and climate change is the target of a new project being undertaken by Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI).

In partnership with RDAs from other water-dependent regions, and with funding from the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services, the consulting team of Australian Water Engineering and McKinna have been engaged to identify opportunities for maintaining and expanding regional economic activity in a water constrained environment. Chairman of RDANI Mal Peters said a local model is required in response to water reform in the region.

“This project is being run in conjunction with the RDA Central West and RDA Orana, who like the Northern Inland region, have a lot of economic activity based upon access to water. We are building on our work to address issues arising from the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) Plan, and being proactive in responding to both climate change and water policy reform. We need to use our local expertise to inform this process in an accurate and practical manner and ensure the best outcome for the regions,” Mr Peters said.

The consultants have been asked to investigate options for existing industries to adapt and respond to the changing water situation, but also to find new industries which can be developed around existing regional competitive advantage, and cope with the possibility of reduced water supply.

The outcome will be a strong commercial focus on new business opportunities which exploit water efficiency measures, with implementation plans developed and industry champions identified so that investors can initiate the opportunities more rapidly. The process will provide ‘shovel-ready’ projects which can tap into various sources of government support if that is required to encourage private investment.

Mr Peters said RDANI was also developing a new regional approach to inform the MDB process to ensure the economic sustainability of the region is maintained and enhanced. “The regional governance structure we are establishing brings stakeholders to the table to plan for more efficient environmental water delivery, and to ensure any negative impacts on productive water are minimised. This project is one of several we expect to have funded to help secure jobs and wealth in the region as well as improving water use efficiency,” Mr Peters said.

The consulting team selected to undertake the project combines the extensive irrigation experience of Australian Water Engineering with the economic strategy and business planning expertise of McKinna, renowned for developing a range of commercial development strategies for agribusiness, other industries and regional areas in Australia and overseas.

The project will commence in June and is scheduled for completion by the end of October 2011.

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