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A new charter for RDAs

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  • Strengthening of Regional Development Australia Committee network follows independent review of RDAs and their effectiveness
  • RDA Committees will now focus on attracting investment and jobs to their regions
  • Clear new performance measures for RDAs will be introduced for the first time

The Regional Development Australia network will be refocused to attract investment and jobs to their regions, Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash announced on 18th August 2017.

The announcement follows the independent review into RDA Committees and their effectiveness by the Hon Warwick L Smith AM.

“I thank Mr Smith for writing this insightful and honest review at my request,” Minister Nash said.

“The major changes in the RDA network will be:

  • “RDA Committees will now pro-actively target, seek and negotiate with private companies, not-for-profits and governments of all levels to bring jobs and investment to our regions;
  • “A more rigorous, merit-based appointments process for Chairs and Committee members will begin from the end of this year, when most terms of appointment run out;
  • “For the first time, clear performance measures will mean practical outcomes of RDAs are properly monitored and measured.

“Until now, RDA Committees have been involved mostly in developing plans for regions.

“The Smith Review found a different approach was required to help communities attract, and make more of, economic opportunities.

“The truth is regions decide their own futures. Government can help row the boat but cannot choose the direction in which to sail—only local communities and leaders can do that. Regions with strong leadership thrive—proof of this is found all over Australia.

“I aim to help create strong leadership in our regions so they can build the kinds of communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to.

“Given this, we will be streamlining RDAs and opening applications up for these positions as we seek the best of the best to attract investment and jobs to our regions.”

RDA Committees will have their funding extended until 31 December 2020 to give the refreshed committees certainty and a good length of time to achieve real results.

A new role of Director of Regional Development will be created for each RDA, who will spearhead efforts to attract investment and jobs to each region. Each independent RDA will make its own decisions regarding optional extra staffing.

In reforming the RDA program under the new charter, Minister Nash said the Australian Government would expand the RDA network to cover Australia's external territories of Christmas, Cocos (Keeling) and Norfolk Islands and the Jervis Bay Territory to attract investment and facilitate economic growth to those regions.

“We will also consolidate the current four Melbourne RDA Committees into one, given this is the standard arrangement in other capital cities,” she said.

“I'd like to thank the more than 500 volunteers who have given their time to their communities through the RDA Committee network successful and I look forward to continuing to hear their views in the future, either through RDA Committees or other forums.

The independent review into the RDA program and the Australian Government response can be found at: regional.gov.au.

Background

Australia's RDA network is made up of 55 committees, each with a chair and deputy char, involving more than 500 volunteer board members. Future RDA Committees will include a chair, deputy chair and members selected for their skills, expertise and local knowledge to deliver investment and jobs.

Quotes from the Smith Review

“All RDA Committees have delivered a regional plan, promoted government programs and provided support to community groups seeking funding. However, there is a great deal of variation in the quality of those plans and the acceptance that those plans are the main driving mechanisms for growth.”

“Stakeholders report that the key value of the RDA program lies in soft infrastructure—networking, facilitation, brokering and advocacy, not in the management and development of regional planning which duplicate activities performed by state and local government bodies.”

”Clear key performance indicators do not exist for the program therefore it is not possible to accurately measure outputs of RDA Committees and anecdotal evidence such as success stories are quite often only seen by individual organisations or are seated in facilitatory roles in regions involving many individuals and organisations.

“There remains strong support for the Australian Government to be engaged in and support regional development but the effectiveness of continuing to invest in a mechanism, created to undertake the development of a regional plan, is questionable. Regional plans are now developed, the focus going forward must be on the activities that deliver on these plans.”

“Investing in infrastructure is important but more focus needs to be put into the other pillars of economic growth; Human capital—particularly education and skills; information and communications technology; business competitiveness; access to markets; collaborative partnerships; and service delivery; these will drive long-term regional development.”

“A commitment must be made to regional development initiatives that grow local economies, promote economic opportunity and build capacity.”

Click here to see the new RDA charter

Source: Senator Fiona Nash | Media Release

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