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July 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue:

Welcome from the Chair

Dear Northern Inlanders,

Welcome to another edition of our newsletter. There is good news on the regional air services front this month, with the announcement of the new Corporate Air services from Inverell to Brisbane, which comes on the back of their service from Narrabri and Moree.  Also in the pipeline are upgrades of the Tamworth and Armidale airports.

Along with the advent of several new large-scale wind and solar projects in the region, households and businesses may also have been approached by a number of companies to install small-scale solar on their premises.  In this newsletter, we explain how this can save you money, and some of the issues to be aware of when calculating your savings.

We are also launching the Skilled Migration Jobs Board, an online platform for connecting employers seeking specific skills with suitably qualified skilled migrants, under the 489 Visa program which we administer in the region.  This has been an important mechanism for businesses to fill job vacancies when local employees cannot be found.  The new online platform will make it easier for employers to connect with skilled migrants.


Russell Stewart

Connecting Employers with Skilled Labour

RDA Northern Inland Executive Officer Nathan Axelsson and Skilled Migration Project Officer Gary Fry with the new Skilled Migration Jobs Board
RDA Northern Inland Executive Officer Nathan Axelsson and Skilled Migration Project Officer Gary Fry with the new Skilled Migration Jobs Board

Helping local employers with recruitment difficulties and skilled migrants to connect is the aim of a new Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) project; the Skilled Migration Jobs Board.

“When a local employer cannot find the skilled workers they need, they can struggle to keep the status quo, let alone grow. That is why the skilled migration projects of RDANI are so vital,” Chair Russell Stewart said. “We are all for Australian jobs for Australians but that’s just a nice sounding slogan when employers struggle to find people with the right skills, qualifications and experience that they need.”

“When an organisation has reduced functionality or a business cannot grow because of the skills shortage, regional economic development is impacted,” he said.

RDANI brings skilled migrants to the region under the Skilled Regional State Nominated 489 sub-class visa, with the Northern Inland one of the most popular regional destinations for skilled migrants in the State. “In order to apply, skilled migrants must meet the requirements for an occupation on our regional demand-based list. Skills and English language proficiency must be assessed,” Skilled Migration Project Officer Gary Fry said.

“Highly professional skilled migrants have come here and failed to connect with the employers who cannot fill a needed position with local labour because they are so unfamiliar with the local jobs market and our industries. That is something we are working to address,” Mr. Fry said.

With support from the NSW State Government, RDANI has set up the Skilled Migration Jobs Board Northern Inland. Employers with recruitment difficulties and skilled migrants in the Northern Inland region can join this Facebook group, submit a post and connect with each other.

“We are calling on employers who have difficulty filling their positions to join and submit posts. They do not have to have a current vacancy,” said Mr. Fry. “If employers regularly need a certain type of skilled worker, they can submit a post calling for expressions of interest from people with a required skill-set.”

These 489 visa recipients have full work entitlements but their visa is classified as ‘temporary’. It is actually a pathway to permanent residency, which can only be achieved after they have lived in a regional or low-growth part of Australia for two years and worked full-time equivalent hours for one year,” he said.

“From the Liverpool Plains Shire to the Moree Plains Shire, from tradespeople to health professionals, skilled migration has been a win-win. Skilled migrants are looking to continue their careers in Northern Inland NSW, while our employers need the skills to get the job done. Skilled migration is economically and socially enriching our communities. The new Skilled Migration Jobs Board can further improve those outcomes.”

The Skilled Migration Jobs Board can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/skilledmigrationjobsni/

For a list of eligible skilled occupations, visit: http://www.rdani.org.au/skilled-migration/skilled-regional-nsw-sponsorship.php

Local Case Study videos with employer and skilled migrant perspectives can be found on the RDANI website at: http://www.rdani.org.au/skilled-migration/skilled-migration-case-studies.php

The True Value of Home Solar – Crunching the Numbers

Installing a home solar system can still be a good financial move but it is a big investment that can be deceptively complicated, according to Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) Senior Project Officer David Thompson. “If done correctly, home solar will reduce the size of your electricity bill, and can earn you money by selling excess electricity which you don’t use into the electricity grid. However, the numbers presented by retailers can be complex and make comparisons challenging.”

Mr. Thompson combined his experience with energy efficiency and data analysis to simplify the home solar equation.

“Solar companies are currently door-knocking in our region offering discounted solar systems. For the average household, they may show you calculations of how their system will save you $3,000 per year or more in electricity costs, and as a result, the system will pay for itself in around three years,” he said.

“This can be correct, especially if you use a lot of electricity during the day when the sun is shining, but before signing on the dotted line, you need to understand exactly how solar saves you money, and how estimates of the savings can be overstated.”

Figure 1 explains how a solar system can save and potentially earn money for a homeowner.

Figure 1. How Solar Saves You Money

“You save money by generating your own electricity via the solar panels, so don’t have to buy it from the grid,” explained Mr Thompson. “You earn money by selling any excess solar electricity that you don’t use at home back into the grid. New regulations mean the price you will get for this electricity (called a feed-in tariff) has recently increased – which is good news”

Sometimes the most obvious limitation to solar power is overlooked. “Both the savings and the potential earnings only occur when the sun is shining! So, unless you can store the electricity in a battery, you only save money during daylight hours,” Mr. Thompson said.

This is important, because when some solar companies crunch the numbers, they will say something like “OK, this 6 kilowatt system will generate 36 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day of electricity, and I can see from your bill that on average your house uses 17 kWh per day, so you will eliminate your grid electricity use entirely and have 19 kWh hours per day of surplus solar electricity to sell back to your electricity retailer (Origin, AGL, DoDo, Red Energy, Momentum Energy or whoever you are with) for let’s say 15 cents per kWh (see Figure 2).”

“But in fact, you are not offsetting the entire 17 kWh per day that you use, only the portion you use when the sun is shining, because at night, your system produces no electricity.”

“For a typical 4 bedroom house without a pool and where no-one is home all day, the energy use during those sunshine hours may only average 5 kWh per day.  Much of the remaining 12 kWh is being used at night, early morning or late evening when your solar system is generating little or no electricity.”

“They may over-estimate your electricity savings because (unless you have battery storage), you are not getting the entire 17 kWh per day free from the sun, but perhaps only 5 kWh per day. The other 12 kWh must be bought from the grid.”

“On the plus side, the 12 kWh generated by your solar system which you are not using goes back into the grid for someone else to use, and you might be paid about 15 cents per kWh for that, due to recent regulatory changes.”

Mr. Thompson also explored how much electricity a solar system really generates. “A system’s power generation capacity is largely determined by its size, described in kilowatts (kW), and the number of daylight hours during which it will generate electricity.

Research in respect to Armidale indicated that on average over a year, a household would achieve 4.5 hours of energy generation per day, so for a 6kW system, that means 6kW times 4.5hrs, totalling 27kWh generated per day.

However, some companies are doing the maths for Armidale based on 6 hours of generation, which boosts the total electricity produced to 36kWh.  This is a significant difference, and has an even bigger impact on the financial benefit (see Figure 2).”

Figure 2. Solar Financial Reality

Mr. Thompson’s advice to the region’s householders who are contemplating a solar system is consider facts in relation to their individual circumstances. “The bottom line is that in most cases, installing solar can save you money.  But the return on that investment can vary considerably depending on the size of the system, the cost of the system, your pattern of electricity use, and how much electricity your system actually generates,” Mr. Thompson concluded.

Investing in National Growth – Regional City Deals

In light of current evidence, there is real multifaceted growth potential in regional cities’ economic performance that makes investing in them good sense, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI). “Contrary to popular opinion, regional cities generate national economic growth and jobs at the same rate as big metropolitan cities. They are worthy of economic investment in their own right; not just on social and equity grounds,” Leader of the RAI Great Small Cities Program Dr Leonie Pearson said.

“However, for regional cities to be ready to capture their $378 billion output potential to 2031, immediate action is needed. Success will see regional cities in 2031 produce twice as much as all the new economy industries produce in today’s metropolitan cities.”

“Drawing on learnings from the UK, new collaborative work by the RAI and the UK Centre for Cities (CFC) spotlights criteria and data that all Australian cities can use to help get themselves investment ready.

RDA Northern Inland Chair Russell Stewart encourages the utilisation of such data. “We have smaller towns and cities in this region which punch well above their weight in respect to the national economy. They are keen to welcome investment, particularly new employers. They are extremely cost-effective investment locations compared to the major cities. Demonstrative data like what the RAI is producing can help us to sell this message,” he said.

To learn more and access this data, click HERE.

NSW Government Investing in Regional Arts and Culture

The region’s artists, performers, cultural organisations and councils are encouraged to apply for a share of the NSW Government’s new $100 million Regional Cultural Fund for infrastructure and arts projects to deliver long-term cultural benefits to local communities.

Applications for the first round are now open. Round one amounts to almost $25 million, which will support the building of new artistic and cultural spaces such as galleries, theatres, libraries, museums and community halls, as well as the upgrading or repurposing of existing arts, screen, culture or heritage infrastructure.

Galleries and museums will also be able to apply for operational funding to support the delivery of services, providing distinct experiences to visitors and promoting increased participation in creative and cultural activities.

RDA Northern Inland Chair Russell Stewart encourages councils and community organisations to liaise with their local State MP when developing their funding proposals. “Let’s put our hands up for our share of the cultural funding purse. Our cultural strengths enhance the liveability of our communities and that is vital to our region’s ongoing development. Let’s take this opportunity to build on what we have and expand into new areas of creativity,” he said.

For further information, including guidelines for applicants, visit www.create.nsw.gov.au

RDA Northern Inland Helps get Census Data Straight

It is so important for Councils and local organisations in the Northern Inland region to have the latest statistical data on hand, particularly when preparing a funding application, advises Regional Development Australia (RDA) Northern Inland Executive Officer Nathan Axelsson.

“We are here to help. RDA Northern Inland offers a consulting service and can assist with the likes of a cost benefit analysis, a strategic plan and funding proposals,” Mr Axelsson said.

“The 2016 census results are out but finding the figures of relevance to you can be challenging. Remplan is a statistical data service that RDA Northern Inland has invested in so we can better serve our region. The latest snapshot of Census figures that matter locally can be viewed on our Northern Inland Remplan Community Profile,” he said.

The link to the Northern Inland NSW region’s Remplan Community Profile is: http://www.communityprofile.com.au/northerninland

“The facts and figures are clear, concise and overall, positive. The Northern Inland region achieved three percent growth from 2011 to 2016.”

“We are well-positioned to grow the numbers we see in the 2016 Census results,” Mr Axelsson said. “Our Northern Inland Innovation Awards have highlighted how progressive and diversified our region is. I am confident that we will again see a strong contingent of innovative businesses sharing their stories with us, by submitting an entry form from the website: www.niia.com.au

National Firearms Amnesty

RDA Northern Inland Chair Russell Stewart has reiterated calls for the region to make the most of Australia’s first National Firearms Amnesty. Aimed at reducing the number of unregistered firearms in our community, it runs form 1 July to 30 September 2017.

During the three-month amnesty, anyone can hand in unregistered firearms or firearm-related items for registration or surrender at approved drop-off points without penalty and without fear of prosecution.

In Australia, it is illegal to have an unregistered firearm. Outside of the amnesty period, anyone caught with an unregistered firearm could face a fine of up to $280,000, 14 years in jail, and a criminal record.

It is important to remove unregistered firearms from the community because of the risks they carry – they have been proven to end up in the hands of people with criminal intent. For example, Man Haron Monis used an unregistered shotgun during the Lindt Café Siege.

Amnesty participants do not need to provide personal details if they surrender a firearm or firearm-related article for destruction – there is a no questions asked policy. There is also no cost involved with handing in firearms or related items for destruction.

This amnesty is as much about giving family’s a chance to get rid of an old heirloom as it is about getting guns off our streets.

Information about individual state and territory requirements, including how and where to surrender firearms, can be found at www.firearmsamnesty.ag.gov.au or by calling 1800 909 826.

Grants and Funding Opportunities

Featured Grant: Essential Energy Community Support Program

Essential Energy’s Community Support Program aims to give back to the local halls that make up the social fabric of regional, rural and remote NSW and provide a valuable venue for the provision of localised services for their surrounding areas. Delivering best value to our customers has to be balanced with providing direct, local support to the communities we service across regional, rural and remote NSW. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to partnering with the local communities where we live and work as we operate and maintain one of Australia’s largest electricity distribution networks.

Through the program, eligible halls will receive a $200 donation (GST exclusive) to put towards general maintenance costs for the hall. There will be one application period per year which will be open for approximately six weeks.

Applications for Essential Energy’s 2017 Community Support Program open at 9am on Tuesday 1 August 2017 and close at 5pm on Friday 15 September 2017.

For eligibility criteria and to lodge an application (available from 9am Tuesday, 1 August), visit

Closing in August

Honda Foundation Grants
Closes 11 August 2017
Funding Amounts Undisclosed
Available to Incorporated charitable organisations to assist with projects in social and environmental space. Who we support:

  1. Supporting the disadvantaged, disabled or those suffering from illness
  2. Relief for victims of natural disasters
  3. Promotion of innovation and new technologies
  4. The promotion, development and preservation of Australian culture

Closing in September

Flying Start Programme
Multiple Rounds closing 30 Sep 2017, 31 Mar 2018
Up to $30,000
Available for Not-for-profit community groups and organisations for projects building or enhancing their local community.

Cadbury Fundraiser Community Grants
Multiple Rounds closing 15 Sep, 30 Nov
Up to $500
Total Pool: Unknown
Available to Not-for-profits and schools for community projects in the realm of social inclusion and community engagement.

Closing in 2019

Jobs Action Plan Rebate
Closes 30 June 2019
Total Pool: Unknown
The plan provides eligible NSW businesses with a payroll tax rebate when they employ new workers in new eligible employment.

Small Business Grant
Closes 30 June 2019
Total Pool: unknown
The grant is designed to encourage the nearly 650,000 small businesses in New South Wales that do not pay payroll tax to hire new employees and expand their business.

What's On in the Northern Inland

Moree Crime Prevention Public Consultation
3pm-5pm Wednesday 2nd August
Midkin Park, Ashley

Tamworth Quality Business Awards
Friday 4th August 2017

Eulah Creek Vintage Machinery Day

Sunday 6th of August 2017
Beulah Park Hall, Eulah Creek

Armidale International Film Festival
Friday 4th to Sunday 6th August 2017

North West Heavy Vehicle Breakfast Forum
6:30am Tuesday 8th August 2017 (registration required)

Cooee Park Opening ceremony (family entertainment)
2pm Wednesday 9th August

Australian Poetry Slam– Moree Heats
Wednesday 9th of August 2017
Moree Community Library

The Mungindi Show
Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th August

Tuesday 22nd to Thursday 24th August

The Rotary Club of Wee Waa Show and Shine
Saturday 26th August 2017
Wee Waa

Australian Chamber Orchestra Collective
Thursday 31st August 2017

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