Federal Regionalisation Minister Bridget McKenzie outlines plan to grow regional centres

Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said regionalisation should underpin the nation’s population growth.
Camera IconNationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said regionalisation should underpin the nation’s population growth. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAP

Bunbury and Busselton could be in pole position to drive Australia’s regional growth under a Federal policy targeting well populated cities close to metro areas.

Speaking for the first time as the Federal Minister for Regionalisation, Bridget McKenzie said regionalisation should underpin the nation’s population growth as a way to reduce emissions and increase prosperity and liveability in Australia.

Her plans would target towns and cities with populations between 25,000 and 250,000 that were at least 90 minutes from a capital city, which places Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie firmly in her sights.

Speaking at the Regions Rising forum on Friday, the Nationals Senator said regional Australia should build on the exodus from capital cities which had been accelerated by COVID-19.

Ms McKenzie said 54,000 people had left cities since the start of the pandemic, adding “COVID has forced so many of us to rethink”.

In the 2021 March quarter alone 11,800 people moved from Australia’s capital cities to regional areas, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“In an ideal word I’d like to see a target of 50 per cent future population growth to be occurring out here with us in the regions,” Ms McKenzie said.

“If we’re serious about reducing emissions and growing sustainable and prosperous regions, then that’s what we should be doing.

“As Australia’s population grows over coming years — and it will — we cannot, nor should we continue to concentrate our growth on capital cities.”

Senator McKenzie has instructed her department to identify how regional cities could be “future cities of rapid growth” and become “significant economic centres”.

But the Senator said it was not just about population and her department would look at 14 factors to determine which centres were doing well.

“As a Government we want to invest in regional centres that are already well-primed for growth,” she said.

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