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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release August 2004

Rural Decline

Hi SOS Members

Save Our Suburbs believes that instead of cramming more and more people in Sydney a policy of balanced state development should be followed. This would alleviate the current swath of overdevelopment, destruction of our environment and infrastructure overload that menaces our suburbs.

Unfortunately anything but balanced state development is happening. While our Premier ostensibly complains Sydney is full up he does nothing about it. A report from the electoral authorities shows that the rural areas are still declining, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Sydney continues to suck country towns dry
By Daniel Lewis, Regional Reporter
August 5, 2004

While regional NSW centres such as Orange are booming, many country towns are shrinking as Sydney's population continues to grow by about 1000 a week.

Census data for 1996 and 2001 for Lachlan, the seat of the Nationals' Ian Armstrong, which is set to be abolished, show that while Young and Temora grew, Condobolin, Forbes, Junee, Cootamundra, Parkes and West Wyalong recorded population falls.

The Electoral Districts Commissioners noted in their report that "even electorates with major rural centres such as Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga are declining on average by 4 per cent".

The Regional Development Minister, David Campbell, said yesterday that he believed the State Government was succeeding in creating jobs in the bush and slowing the growth of Sydney. His department spends $19 million a year assisting development.

Country Week, a big promotion at the Sydney Showground next week to encourage people to move to the bush, is getting $100,000.

The Premier, Bob Carr, has blamed much of the problem of Sydney's growth on the Federal Government's immigration policies, but the leader of the Nationals, Andrew Stoner, said: "While Premier Carr waxes lyrical about over-population in Sydney, he has done nothing to encourage decentralisation and regional development. In fact, he has been doing the opposite by withdrawing services and failing to provide the necessary infrastructure in rural and regional NSW."

Rural population decline is a trend across Australia and in many other countries.

Tony Sorensen, environmental expert at the University of New England, says the issue is beyond the control of governments and has more to do with technological developments, commodity prices, currency value, climate and lifestyle preferences.

Farmers are now so efficient they no longer employ nearly as many people as they once did.

"We continually hear the argument that all would be well in regional Australia if we reopened a few branch lines, brought back cottage hospitals, courthouses and bank branches and protected small businesses," Dr Sorensen has said.

"A lot of that agenda is not going to happen, and it's like a hallucinatory drug that prevents a clear vision for the future. We're seeing the development of larger-scale rural enterprises, and that will entail the slow demise of many small communities unless they can find an alternative reason to exist."

SOS policy as summarised on our website includes:

1. Whole of State Development and repopulation of declining regions

2. a viable decentralisation policy drawing on international experience particularly that of the European Union. A mix of incentives and infrastructure provision can be used to deal with the time and distance issues raised by decentralisation. These include high speed rail, top class telecommunications and tax incentives.

3. the creation of Satellite Cities. Each to be as autonomous as practical and linked by high-speed transport and communications. The planning for each satellite city would emphasise:

We need positive practical solutions in place of the current sops to those who make donations to political parties.

Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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