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A diverse regional economy, supported by the right infrastructure, an exceptional natural environment and resilient communities

By 2036, communities across the Far West are still enjoying the distinctive rural character of their communities, with improvements in their standard of living.

 

The regional economy has grown due to greater diversification and the appeal of the region’s primary and value-added products to domestic and global markets. High-value agricultural activities, including food and beverage manufacturing, broadacre cropping and grazing, and intensive agriculture and horticulture, are continuing to grow the economy.

 

A sustainable mining sector in Broken Hill, Cobar, Wentworth and Balranald is generating direct employment and providing flow-on benefits to communities.

 

Major improvements to inter-regional rail and road infrastructure are increasing choice and delivering more competitive freight costs for the agriculture and mining sectors.

 

The region is a leader in solar and wind energy generation and a hub for education and expertise in climate change adaptation. Communities have access to the latest information to manage natural hazard risks, and are more responsive to the impacts of climate change and water availability.

 

The Far West is meeting benchmarks for sustainable and innovative water resource management in agriculture, mining and community water supply, and water is being shared equitably among users and with new developments.

 

Major rivers, natural waterways, wetlands and environmental corridors have been protected. Together with the region’s many other environmental and cultural heritage features, they continue to enrich the lives of residents and attract domestic and international tourists.

 

Innovative new public and community transport services are making it easier for people to travel to work, socialise and enjoy recreation options. Inter-regional, intra-regional and interstate travel is more affordable. Regular airline services are extending travel opportunities statewide.

 

Communication technologies are allowing more people to work and access services locally – particularly younger people. New residents are arriving and older people are finding it easier to age-in-place.

 

New jobs are attracting young families and skilled workers to relocate to, or return to, the communities where they grew up.

 

Well-designed housing is meeting the needs of communities, including the Aboriginal community, the ageing population, singles, families, low-income households, and seasonal and itinerant workers.

 

Broken Hill is a key strategic centre servicing the western part of the region, with strong connections to Central Darling. Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke and Cobar local government areas have developed further connections with the Orana region and are taking advantage of services in Dubbo. The Wentworth and Balranald local government areas are benefiting from increased ties with other communities along the Murray River, including Mildura in Victoria.

 

To achieve this vision, the NSW Government has acknowledged the opportunities for improved local governance emerging from the Far West Initiative and set the following regionally focused goals:

  • A diverse economy with efficient transport and infrastructure networks
  • An exceptional and distinctive natural environment
  • Strong and connected communities

Far West vision map

Click to enlarge.

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The Far West is a unique region with a diverse environment, ranging from the ‘outback’ arid and semi-arid desert areas, to inland lakes and the Barwon–Darling river system. It is home to important Aboriginal and European heritage, and has thriving agricultural and mining sectors including Broken Hill, the birthplace of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company.

 

The Draft Far West Regional Plan outlines our vision for this region. Over the next 20 years, we want to diversify the economy, celebrate the amazing landscapes, protect the environmental and cultural heritage features, and build resilience in local communities. 

 

The draft Plan outlines actions for strengthening the local economy by growing the agribusiness and manufacturing sectors, sustainably managing mining, capitalising on renewable energy opportunities, and promoting the region’s unique tourist attractions.

 

The region is traversed by major freight routes, including those between Sydney and Adelaide. Improving rail and road infrastructure, as well as access to reliable telecommunications, will help unlock future economic potential. 


Many of the Far West’s outstanding environmental features have special significance for Aboriginal people and the draft Plan includes actions to protect these assets. 

With changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures, we want to help Far West communities adapt to meet the challenges of a changing climate. Water security is critical, and the Plan includes provision of new water supply infrastructure at Broken Hill and Cobar. By coupling this with sustainable water resource management, we will improve water security, ensuring this precious resource is available for communities, industry and the environment into the future.

 

The draft Plan aims to meet the changing needs of the community, including the ageing population. We want to provide greater housing choice, support jobs growth and improve delivery of services to local service centres, towns and villages and the strategic centre of Broken Hill.  

 

We want to know what you think of the vision, goals and actions in this draft Plan, so that we can work together to achieve a sustainable future for this important region.

 

Please have your say.

 

Sarah Mitchell MLC

Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW

A region at the heart of south-east Australia, with abundant opportunities

Communities in the Far West are among Australia’s most resilient, self-reliant and forward-looking. It is a vast region, stretching from the inland Aboriginal and mining communities of Lightning Ridge and Walgett, near the Queensland border, to Australia’s old pioneer mining settlements of Cobar and Broken Hill, and the Murray River townships of Wentworth and Balranald, near the Victorian border. 

Around 16 per cent of the Far West population identifies as Aboriginal, representing around 3 per cent of the total Aboriginal population of NSW.

 

The Far West is covered by the Western Division of NSW. Almost all the land in the Western Division is held under 6,400 Western Lands Leases for the purposes of grazing and pastoral production.1 

The Barwon–Darling river system, one of the longest in the world, connects the region’s towns and communities to each other and to southern Australia’s rural food bowl. Its western rivers flow through the nationally and internationally significant Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area, Menindee Lakes and the wetlands of the Murray–Darling Basin.

Distance is a constant challenge. Businesses and communities have relatively higher transport and input costs, poorer communication links and less choice in health, education and community services. By contrast, the Far West is connected to national highways and rail networks linking Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, and is deeply integrated with global markets and trade flows.  

Agriculture and mining are mainstays of the economy. Local supply chains start on farms and mines and reach markets in Asia, Europe and the US. Fruit, agricultural produce, mineral products and mineral sands are transported from the region to ports in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. 

 

The region is also at the forefront of climate change adaptation, and is developing large-scale renewable energy projects, including wind and solar. 

Tourism, arts and cultural opportunities are abundant. Broken Hill is included on the Australian National Heritage List because of its significant role in Australia’s mining industry and national development.2 The Far West boasts many other culturally significant sites that lend themselves to heritage-based tourism, including the archaeological site of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, the world’s oldest human cremation remains.  

This Draft Regional Plan aims to guide the NSW Government’s land use planning priorities and decisions in the Far West over the next 20 years. It is not intended to be a step-by-step approach to all land use planning. Rather, it provides an overarching framework to guide subsequent and more detailed land use plans, development proposals and infrastructure funding decisions. While a series of priority actions are included, medium and longer-term actions will be identified to coincide with population and economic changes. 

Priorities for councils are set out in Local Government Narratives, which will guide further investigations and implementation. 

 

Infographics with key statistics for the Far West region

Investment in Far West communities

NSW Government investments in the Far West include: 

  • $40.4 million for upgrade works on the Silver City and Cobb highways, and $4.25 million for the widening of Kidman Way south of Cobar, funded by the Restart NSW Western Freight Productivity Program;3 
  • $1.3 million from the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, for upgrades to Lightning Ridge and Bourke airports to help boost their capacity and safety, and increase their ability to attract visitors to regional NSW;
  • $3.3 million for road projects that will eliminate constraints on connections in Broken Hill, Cobar and Walgett, funded under the Fixing Country Roads program for road projects; and
  • a share of $110 million in Restart NSW funding, under the Regional Water and Wastewater Backlog Program, for projects in Bourke, Central Darling, Cobar and Walgett.5

The NSW Government has consulted with councils and other stakeholders in the region during the development of this draft Plan, which is now provided for further consideration by stakeholders and the broader community.

 

The final Plan can be delivered in one of two ways: alongside the Far West Initiative (and embodying the Initiative’s major reforms) or via the establishment of a Coordination and Monitoring Committee which would coordinate and be accountable for achieving the vision and goals of the Plan.

 

The NSW Government prefers the first option: delivery alongside the Far West Initiative (see over page). Accordingly, this draft Plan sets out a proposed new collaborative approach for planning vibrant places and sustainable communities.

 

Better place-based planning is a whole-of-government, whole-of-community undertaking. Done well, it will generate economic development, deliver more housing and infrastructure suited to the long-term needs and aspirations of the community, and enable better access to jobs, water, services and transport.

 

An implementation plan will be prepared for the final Plan, to assign accountabilities and time frames for implementing actions. An annual monitoring report will be prepared to assess progress on implementation.

 

A Government direction will be issued to councils so that when they prepare new planning proposals or update local planning controls, they are consistent with the vision and guiding principles of the final Regional Plan.

 

Every five years, or as necessary, the Plan will be reviewed and adjusted to make sure the vision for 2036 is realised.

 

The draft Plan:

  • promotes economic opportunities, environmental management and social wellbeing;
  • responds to the region’s landscape, environmental assets, and natural and cultural resources;
  • responds to long-term structural economic and demographic changes, with a focus on the ageing population and sustainable communities;
  • promotes economic activities that take advantage of changing market demands and industry needs;
  • encourages greater housing choice;
  • coordinates land use and investment in infrastructure and services;
  • assists communities to deal with the effects of a changing climate and natural hazards; and
  • better coordinates development and services across borders.

 

Inputs to the draft Plan

Inputs to the draft Plan have been provided by councils and Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees and by drawing on the NSW Government’s long-term strategic directions as outlined in the State Infrastructure Strategy (2012), the Economic Development Strategy for Regional NSW (2015), the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan (2012), Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW (2016) and OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility and Empowerment) – the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal Affairs (2013).

 

Strong local governance and leadership

With vast distances and small populations to service, governments and service providers face significant challenges in the Far West. Communities in the region face social, economic and environmental challenges that stretch across government boundaries.

 

The 2013 report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel identified a ‘crisis of governance’ in the Far West. ‘One size fits all’ policy approaches were found to be inadequate to the challenges facing western communities. The report noted that decentralised, locally coordinated whole-of-government service models would be required.

 

The Far West Initiative will be key to preparing the region’s future leaders, connecting various levels of government and non-government organisations, and developing innovative solutions to provide sustainable and equitable services to western communities, taking advantage of new technology.

 

Many of the challenges facing the Far West are not the sole responsibility of any one agency or level of government.

 

Accordingly, the draft Plan proposes to coordinate and deliver land use and infrastructure outcomes by:

  • promoting economic development and employment opportunities close to strategic corridors and infrastructure. This aims to match workers’ skills to business needs;
  • supporting housing and accommodation options that meet the needs of western communities, including Aboriginal people, and older people who wish to remain in their communities, as well as tourists;
  • empowering local leaders and decision-makers to better meet the needs of remote communities and build the next generation of local leaders;
  • ensuring that infrastructure, economic activity and housing development are complementary – through place-based coordination and planning, and aligning funding and planning functions – for example, providing affordable housing near employment centres, or co-locating education and health services near aged care housing; and
  • accommodating new service and funding models, including shared business models that allow for savings to be reinvested in communities, and greater use of Voluntary Planning Agreements to support economic and housing development.

 

Far West Initiative

The NSW Government has established the Far West Initiative in response to recommendations from the Independent Local Government Review Panel (2013) as part of the Fit for the Future reform package.

 

The Initiative is intended to develop the region’s future leaders, connect various levels of government and non-government organisations, and develop new ways of providing services to western communities, including through new technology.

 

A discussion paper has recently been released and a Far West Initiative Advisory Committee has been established to support the implementation of the Far West Initiative.

 

A new regional statutory body is proposed, which could have the following functions:

  • strategic planning;
  • community engagement;
  • service delivery (such as health, safety, community services, infrastructure development and maintenance); 
  • environmental protection; and
  • monitoring of development activity and infrastructure and service planning.

 

Page last updated: 08/08/2018