THE Wheatbelt's vibrant economy, livable communities, natural environment and clever people are the characteristics that will frame the way the region is viewed into the future, according to Wheatbelt Development Commission chairman Tim Shackleton.
Speaking at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) The Future of the Wheatbelt event in Northam, Mr Shackleton gave his perspective on of the future of the Wheatbelt to a sold out audience.
The second event in CEDA's 10-part State of the Regions series saw 180 people from government, business and the academic community gather to celebrate, dissect and focus on the Wheatbelt's future.
The outcomes from each forum will be captured and contribute to an overarching report on regional WA, to be launched in 2016 at CEDA's signature event State of the Nation in Canberra.
"This an unashamed advertisement for the future of the Wheatbelt," Mr Shackleton said.
"I genuinely believe in it, I accept wholeheartedly that things are not perfect and there are many serious challenges ahead.
"However I hope you too can come to feel as optimistic about the region as we do at the Wheatbelt Development Commission."
Mr Shackleton said the Wheatbelt had a surprisingly adaptive and diverse economy, which built well on its natural assets and aligned with State, national and international markets.
"The Wheatbelt has recorded strong economic growth over the past 10 years, with a gross regional product (GRP) increasing by an average annual rate of 6.6 per cent compared to the gross state product (GSP) across the whole of WA throughout the same period of 4.9pc," he said.
"This growth has occurred across an increasingly diverse economic base with growth in mining, transport and logistics, manufacturing and construction and of course they are underpinned by a strong and dominant agricultural sector."
Mr Shackleton said the Wheatbelt regional blueprint had set a bold aspirational target of 6.8pc growth in GRP each year to 2050.
"That sounds a very ambitious target, and indeed when I first heard it I thought that didn't sound right, but when you look at the performance of the region over the past 10 years, growth of 6.8pc over the next 25-30 years is certainly possible," he said.
"The Wheatbelt, in my view, and it's generally understood, is outperforming the majority of the regions in the State in terms of GRP."
In addition to its economy, Mr Shackleton said the region had diverse, safe, healthy and resilient communities where services and infrastructure reflected the needs and aspirations of residents.
"In the Department of Regional Development's Living in the Regions report released earlier this year, the Wheatbelt was assessed as being the safest and the most community minded region in WA," he said.
"Our population is just under 75,000 and again in the Wheatbelt regional blueprint we have set a bold and aspirational target of 180,000 people living and working in our region by 2050."
Mr Shackleton said the Wheatbelt's unique natural amenities and environment were a valued asset for social, cultural and economic development.
"It might surprise you to know that approximately 60pc of the State's natural energy production comes from the Wheatbelt," he said.
"It is true our region is facing some serious challenges adapting to life without as much rain as we are used to, but all signs are that those areas that are affected the most will make the necessary changes and move forward, albeit with a different economic focus than in previous years."
Mr Shackleton said the region's people were doing clever and innovative things to create both social and economic returns for their communities.