“The Next Crop” forum held in Cobar last Thursday may not have had a large turnout, however the organisers were pleased with the “quality” feedback they received.
Facilitated by The Land newspaper, ‘The Next Crop’ forums are described as “a growing conversation where good ideas are gathered and shared about how people in rural communities and businesses can make a positive difference”.
To date forums have been held in Griffith, Armidale, Cooma, Grenfell, Moree and
Cobar with two more to be held in Yass and Lismore.
The Land’s editor Andrew Norris said ‘The Next Crop’ forum aims to promote a conversation on local issues and the unique challenges that rural communities face.
Panel members who led the conversation
at the Cobar forum included Gary White, chief planner with the NSW Department of Planning and the Environment; Regional Development Australia (RDA) Orana board member
Tracy McIntyre; local landholder Justin McClure; and local business woman Ellie Russell.
Mr Norris said the forums were about identifying local issues.
“It’s about taking small steps that can be picked up and done without too much effort by a community,” he said.
Information from the forums will also be used to assist the Department of Planning and Environment in planning for future regional infrastructure and services.
Mr White said his department works closely with councils, industry and other agency stakeholders to implement planning outcomes which are balanced and sustainable.
Topics discussed at the Cobar forum included: workforce readiness and apprentice training; skilled migrant workers and ways of ensuring the workers’ families are welcomed and settled into the community; labour shortages; mine rosters and their effects on the community; a lack of services and infrastructure such as water and power; reasons mine workers’ families are not choosing to make their homes in Cobar; higher education, trades schools and TAFE; planning for community capacity building; the importance of having good roads; impediments landholders face with regards to how they can use their land; the problems and uses for INS (Invasive Native Scrub); and a perception that the community is disconnected and is lacking leadership.
Mr White said he got a lot out of the Cobar forum that he would be taking back to discuss with the Planning Minister.
Ms McIntyre said she also gained a lot of information from the forum that she would be taking back to the RDA Orana board.