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Thread: Rural Australia

  1. #1
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    Rural Australia

    Hey Folks,
    I am interested if anyone has done much work with small declining towns in rural Australia? Maybe there are similar areas in the US? My town is 8500 people, the municipality has 16000 in total. The nearest towns are 90000 and 100000 people and are a good 1/2 and 1 hour drive away. Other towns in between range from 20 to 2000 people. We are prt of the Murray-Darling Basin (14% of Australia's land mass) that has seen a 70% reduction of inflows in the past 12 years of drought. Irrigators use 97% of the available water. The scientific consensus is that the Basin needs an extra 4400 gigalitres each year to avoid ecological collapse, an increase of 2/3rds of its current 'evironmental flow'. A recent deregulation of water economics has lead to wealthy irrigators buying water from cash deficient family farms, renderring them unviable - you can't grow rice/pasture/cotton/milk in the desert without water. Areas outside the irrigating country are leaving their farms in droves, heading to supply towns that are struggling with urban design and community development issues. Many of these towns have populations of less than 2000, so have a limited rate base, and don't keep stragegic planners on their staff, let alone regional development expertise or people to offer sustainable urban design solutions. So my question is how can we approach this situation, and avert the further decline of rural towns, that may have had up to 6 generations of family associations, traditionally relied on farming income to maintain service industries? Lose agriculture and what new economies are possible?

    Phil

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    In the States we would promote the heck out of such a situation. Farming appears to be gone, so forget that. 1/2 and 1 hour away from sizable cities should be promoted. Small town living. Less taxes. Affordable land. And just a short distance from city amenities without the congestion. Become part of a metropolitan region. And hopefully there is mass transit such as trains: if not that should be a regional priority.

    Oh, and your legislation on water rights should be changed.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pj2hansen View post
    Hey Folks,
    I am interested if anyone has done much work with small declining towns in rural Australia? Maybe there are similar areas in the US? My town is 8500 people, the municipality has 16000 in total. The nearest towns are 90000 and 100000 people and are a good 1/2 and 1 hour drive away. Other towns in between range from 20 to 2000 people. We are prt of the Murray-Darling Basin (14% of Australia's land mass) that has seen a 70% reduction of inflows in the past 12 years of drought. Irrigators use 97% of the available water. The scientific consensus is that the Basin needs an extra 4400 gigalitres each year to avoid ecological collapse, an increase of 2/3rds of its current 'evironmental flow'. A recent deregulation of water economics has lead to wealthy irrigators buying water from cash deficient family farms, renderring them unviable - you can't grow rice/pasture/cotton/milk in the desert without water. Areas outside the irrigating country are leaving their farms in droves, heading to supply towns that are struggling with urban design and community development issues. Many of these towns have populations of less than 2000, so have a limited rate base, and don't keep stragegic planners on their staff, let alone regional development expertise or people to offer sustainable urban design solutions. So my question is how can we approach this situation, and avert the further decline of rural towns, that may have had up to 6 generations of family associations, traditionally relied on farming income to maintain service industries? Lose agriculture and what new economies are possible?

    Phil

    I think this is a difficult question. A regional approach is required for this situation, but because the Murray- Darling System runs through at least 3 different states, this makes it somewhat difficult and the federal government needs to work something out. The Murray-Darling is important to the food supply of Australia- so it really is in the national interest.
    There was a report in Sydney over the weekend that wealthy international investors are purchasing the water licenses in the area. While i dont deny the benefits of free trade, i think that it is a big issue.

    Placing more people in the region is also an issue, firstly because a far bit of the area is reasonably remote from major cities, and also the water supply issue. If there was a regional/federal approach to the issue, the supply towns could have funding to undertake studies regarding urban design etc. There is also a problem that the supply towns do not have enjoy work for a larger population - overseas manufacturing and the big cities have ensured that is the case.
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

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