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AgLife: A story to tell...

I’ve always lived at Rupanyup. I love this little community. 

I love the characters you meet in the street; the way everyone says g’day; the fact that you do the steering wheel wave to every car that passes, local or not. I love the rec reserve on a Saturday; the ‘dew busters’ running out onto a foggy oval, the animated chatter from the netball court; and the quiet beer to end the day around the bar or bonfire. 

Pre COVID-19, I often visited Melbourne. I came to love this city too. The laneways bustling with people going to their favourite restaurant; the unmarked door that led to a rooftop bar; the way the city hummed on a Friday night with people going to footy at the ‘G’, a stage show in the many theatres or a band in a nearby pub.

A few years ago I realised these two places I love have related but opposite problems. The quality of life in Rupanyup is at risk because there are too few people. The quality of life in Melbourne is at risk because there are too many people.

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In a country the size of Australia, it makes no sense that we concentrate the majority of our population in a narrow strip from just north of Brisbane, around the coast to Geelong.

On the fringes of the major cities we’re building large housing estates with no community infrastructure; we’re feeding more cars onto already congested roads and we’re pricing a generation of people out of the housing market. 

Policy that leads to better distribution of population would benefit everyone. 

When I’d test this view with city-based colleagues I’d invariably get a response of ‘there’s no jobs in rural areas’. So it’s important to note the latest report from Regional Australia Institute showing, over the past few months, there’s an average of 66,000 jobs advertised in regional Australia at any one time. And guess what happens when you fill those jobs? You create even more demand for local goods and services and so even more jobs. 

In the major cities, governments will not be able to keep up with the infrastructure needs of a rapidly rising population. There will be more roads to build, more schools to build, more community facilities to build. 

In rural areas we have surplus public infrastructure. Schools that could accommodate twice as many students; sports ovals, tennis courts, swimming pools already in place; the roads and bridges are built.    

It’s easy to blame governments for policy failure. But I’ve come to believe it’s up to us, the people, to drive the conversation.

If we do that well, government will eventually back us with good policy.

So when it comes to attracting more people to live in rural and regional areas, let’s all be 24-7 marketers. At every chance, and with everyone we meet, let’s be vocal advocates of the wonderful life you can have living, working and playing with us.  

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!