Let’s be fearless in our regional economic recovery

Let’s be fearless in our regional economic recovery

There is a significant focus on how regional Australia is responding to the challenges of COVID-19 and the structural and social changes that will occur in the long-term. The Regional Australia Institute has noted a significant variation in exposure to the impacts of COVID-19 and different levels of capacity to respond. 

If our regions are key to rebooting the economy, how do we ensure that economic opportunity and capacity is calibrated to a region’s comparative advantage so that recovery is inclusive and maximising a region’s potential?

While governments are rightly focused on the immediate financial levers available to stimulate the economy to create real jobs, it’s only fair to ask the question, is this enough to ensure regional business and communities have the capability and capacity to shift gears to change and grow?

With an increased urgency to stimulate regional development, how will communities be fully and meaningfully engaged so that outcomes align with expectations and development is shared fairly across communities?

Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

Last month, Futureye and OurSay completed a series of regional recovery roundtables to create a community of local government practitioners across Australia committed to pursuing a fearless recovery.

The workshops enabled participants to build a shared understanding of the barriers, fears and needs of the regions so that impediments to recovery can be converted to opportunities for growth.

Polling from our regional recovery roundtables highlighted a number of impediments to regional recovery including:

(1) a lack of knowledge about where to invest to leverage a region’s strategic comparative advantage;

(2) a lack of vision to deal with community wellbeing priorities and the process of recovery stemming from fear; and

(3) a lack of understanding about how to engage with the informal community networks that were growing.

These are critical issues to be addressed given that local governments will be handed billions of dollars for regional infrastructure and industry development as part of the COVID recovery.

While governments zero in on ways to generate jobs, our polling reveals that hand-in-hand with any financial stimulus must come an investment in strategic foresight capacity and a place-based, human-centered vision for healthcare, infrastructure and housing through a process of participatory engagement.

The time to rebuild our economies with the full support of the public is now. Rebuilding a new economy out of a recession requires meaningful alignment between capital investment and community expectations. Doing otherwise may generate short-term returns if successful, but it will only increase social licence risks in the long-term.  

You can watch the full regional recovery series on Oursay platform.