Vision for a vibrant Wheatlbelt

12 Sep, 2014 02:00 AM
This an unashamed advertisement for the future of the Wheatbelt

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.

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Farmer Joe
12/09/2014 6:36:40 AM, on The Land

It doesn't matter how much you talk it up, if you are going to go broke farming people will leave and never return. Gross regional profits may be rising but the net farm profits are not. We are past the time for toothless reform from glib optimists.
12/09/2014 7:19:22 AM, on Farm Weekly

Its ironic isn't it? Farmers having their equity tied up in a co-op like CBH are actually starving themselves of much needed equity and testing solvency in many cases. In this process rural communities are being decimated because the self help option is not being taken. Instead the taxpayer is viewed as some kind of white knight. Take a look around folk, the world is broke and nobody is coming to help you out. You have to help yourself first and foremost and fortunately for farmers there is a $6 billion self help option available. Will we oversee that disappear too?
Beef man
12/09/2014 7:27:32 AM, on Farm Weekly

These guys have the rose coloured glasses on
Jock Munro
12/09/2014 9:11:20 AM, on The Land

Deregular BSc(Ag), How would farmers in the WA wheat belt be better off if they sold off CBH and were gouged from farm gate to port?
12/09/2014 10:20:09 AM, on Farm Weekly

Nobody is talking about selling CBH only fearmongers. $6 billion of CBH equity on grower balance sheets plus dividends (the proceeds of gouging) is how farmers would be better off. And for the 1000 growers facing bankrupcty in WA in the next 2 years with prices back in the doldrums, future gouging is hardly what they are focussing on today.
12/09/2014 1:08:36 PM, on The Land

You are talking about being only a little bit pregnant Deregul8. No such thing.
12/09/2014 1:14:16 PM, on The Land

Seems to me Deregul8, that asking CBH to distribute equity to coop members means giving out share certificates and allowing them to cash in those certificates. 2 questions: Firstly what does CBH do to replace that capital? Secondly, once coop members get share certificates, they can sell them to whoever they like and you no longer have a grower owned coop do you?
Farming for 51 yr,s
12/09/2014 2:18:09 PM, on Farm Weekly

You idiots just can,t or don,t want to believe what D8 is talking about with the potential equity tied up in CBH. Jocks jealous anyway because he can,t get his Uncle Ho hands on it. If they take time to have a look at the history of Wesfarmers. who (hallo) used to be a co-op and ask shareholders what they would prefer a $2 share or currently about $43 dollars sitting in their equity statement and it is their perogitive what they do with it. I shaw as hell know which scenario I prefer.
12/09/2014 3:20:43 PM, on The Land

Farmer of 51 years and D8, so come out and say it openly - you no longer want CBH to be a grower Co-op. You want it to be another public Company which can be bought and sold to Cargill or ADM or Glencore, or whom ever, when ever. Just say that and don't beat around the bush; and see how far you get?
12/09/2014 3:26:20 PM, on Farm Weekly

Bronwyn, CBH takes in enourmous sums of capital in storage and handling fees every year. The problem is that they do not use that capital efficiently. They have no way of containing costs and no incentive to cut costs at the most inefficient receival points. Gives the currenbt owners of CBH a proper shareholding and let CBH operate like a business and we will quickly see efficient allocation of capital. It may even see CBH transform into an outfit that can compete with other bulk handlers. Not many farmers that owned shares in the Wesfarmers co-op sold them. Smart board that delivered value.
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