Landmark report highlights the Limestone Coasts strengths and future opportunities for growth and investment
Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast (RDALC) has partnered with Infrastructure Australia to develop the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report. The report highlights opportunities in housing, education, transport and telecommunications to support the regionalisation trend that took hold during the pandemic and is reshaping Limestone Coast region.
In developing this report, Infrastructure Australia partnered with 48 Regional Development Australia committees to conduct extensive consultation on community views. This involved engagement with key regional stakeholders, including businesses, peak bodies and industry groups, to help create a picture of each area’s diverse assets, growth industries and infrastructure requirements.
Consultation facilitated by RDALC found that stakeholders within the region consider available housing, access to further education and training, broadband and mobile connectivity, and the quality of freight infrastructure, to be the most significant infrastructure gaps.
The report highlights that while the desirability and liveability of the region has increased demand for housing, the lack of infrastructure investment cannot accommodate the rising population.
“The increased demand for housing and lack of available and affordable accommodation for workers means businesses in the region have not been able to operate at full capacity or grow as a consequence,” said Evan Flint, Chair of RDALC.
Access to skills and available workforce were identified as a key growth challenge for the region. Many small businesses are facing major skills related issues, which limit their ability to create further employment opportunities.
“The provision of appropriate education infrastructure is critical to ensure the development and retention of a sustainable working population, with the right type of skills and capabilities to support industry growth,” said Mr Flint.
The existence of multiple black spots across the region, impacting the performance of industries and community was a key issue identified within the report.
“Digital connectivity through appropriate infrastructure has been identified as critical to ensure the Limestone Coast remains competitive with metropolitan regions and globally,” said Mr Flint.
“With our Australian Digital Inclusion Index score well below the State and National average, the need to improve our digital infrastructure is critical in supporting changing delivery models for training and education in the region,” said Mr Flint.
A growing freight task was seen as a key regional priority, and in particular, the increasing number of larger and heavier trucks on local roads. The need for intermodal freight hub facilities and freight rail connection in the southern parts of the region were identified as a necessity in order to support growing freight volumes, alleviate pressure on local roads and increase opportunities to enter new markets.
Infrastructure Australia Chief of Policy & Research Peter Colacino said “Infrastructure Australia’s 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit identified the challenges and opportunities in providing infrastructure and services in Regional Australia.
“While Australia’s regions are each unique, they share many strengths. This report draws out of those strengths as the basis for communities to define their own identify as well as supporting increased collaboration and knowledge sharing between communities.
“We encourage all stakeholders to use this evidence base to bring forward solutions to local challenges and seize opportunities for growth, innovation and investment. This evidence base supports planning, and informed decision-making, to ensure we get the solutions right to close these gaps.
“Without further reform and investment, the quality of infrastructure and access to services in our regions will remain behind our Fast-growing Cities, constraining growth. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional population growth and changing patterns of trade are compounding these challenges,” Mr Colacino said.
Published alongside an interactive map, the report is a starting point for discussion between all parties to inform further planning, policy and investment solutions. Further consultation is being encouraged, with submissions open until 29 April 2022.
You can access the SA report here.