Regional Action

The demise of many small South Australian towns commenced in the 1970's and continued for about 20 years. This demise coincided with the closure of railways commencing in the 1970's, followed by the deregulation of the broader economy in the 1980's and the removal of long-standing services such as banking, and culminated in rationalisation of other services such as local government, health, and government extension services in primary industries and the environment.

Some small towns, those with population less than 500, have continued to shrink. Some have managed to stabilise their population particularly during the past 15 years with the migration of retirees from the city to quieter rural areas. Other small communities such as Blyth, have not only held off the decline but have "reinvented" themselves … of sorts.

This story is about Blyth. There is no reason why aspects of the proposals outlined could not be applied by other communities anywhere around Australia to add to their diversity.

Diversity. That is the only factor that can ensure that small rural communities become resilient to future economic shocks and predicted environmental stress.

Change and Destiny

In a Blog post on "green levies" I described what has happened to Natural Resources Management Board funding, with particular reference to the Northern & Yorke NRM Board. Their funds have declined by 31% since 2011, and yet, from my assessment, the paltry sum provided by the state government (about $550,000) is equivalent to about 0.06% of the average annual primary production from the region.

There is one certain aspect that has emerged during the past 10 years, and that is the diminishing investment in the rural sector at the expense of a significant increase in expenditure on Adelaide-related projects. South Australia is rapidly becoming a city-state, where the majority of decisions on the welfare of rural folk are made by city-based politicians.

This aspect deserves further investigation, and it will be done in due course.

What does this mean for rural communities? 

Their survival and prosperity will have to come from within those communities, but as I have alluded to in Ideas for a small town, it is going to require a mindset change, imagination, andthe will to succeed. And this will be in the face of some of the greatest challenges to confront the rural sector in all its (European) history.

I believe that landscape change is absolutely necessary if the dire consequences that are predicted for the region in the not-so-distant future, are going to be ameliorated. There are several very big opportunities right now that need to be grasped by the rural sector - carbon farming, and native plant seed production. 

The sooner farmers and regions get into carbon sequestration via dedicated plantations the sooner these types of income streams will become a reality. And the sooner biodiversity outcomes can be realised.


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