The NSW Government is taking a fresh approach to how it invests in regional NSW to make sure we can help meet the needs of all communities. This process is part of a new Regional Development Roadmap which includes three key elements:
- Investing in the Regional Development Trust Fund
- Appointing a Regional Development Advisory Council, and
- Modernising the Regional Development Act 2004.
Regional Development Roadmap
The NSW Government has announced an initial investment of $350 million into a Regional Development Trust Fund for sustainable and strategic investment with a focus on priorities that make a real difference to regional communities.
The Regional Development Trust Fund will be strategically invested in regional and rural communities through four focus areas:
- Sustainable regional industries, including emerging and engine industries
- Aboriginal economic development and enterprise
- Community infrastructure and capacity building
- Improving regional service delivery.
The Ministers decision making on investment from the Regional Development Trust will be supported by recommendations from the Regional Development Advisory Council, and guided by clear investment principles aligned with the Australian Government’s Regional Investment Framework.
Frequently asked questions – Regional Development Trust Fund
The NSW Government is committed to ensuring investment of public money is informed by the best available evidence and focused on policies that make a real difference to the lives of people in rural and regional NSW.
The Regional Development Trust Fund will provide for secure, sustainable and strategic investment for rural and regional NSW. Over time, it is expected the Regional Development Trust Fund will reduce the reliance on grants as the primary source of government investment for communities and industry.
The NSW Government has committed an initial investment of $350 million over four years for strategic investment in regional and rural communities.
As part of the modernisation of the Regional Development Act 2004 the NSW Government, with advice from the Regional Development Advisory Council, will establish a robust and transparent framework to guide future investments decision making.
An initial investment round in regional pilot programs will commence in 2023. Investment proposals will be considered from March 2024.
A new Regional Development Advisory Council will work with the Minister for Regional NSW, Regional Ministers and regional communities to modernise the Regional Development Act 2004.
It will include members, appointed by the Minister for Regional NSW, with relevant skills and experience in regional investment, including regional economics, primary industries, regional service delivery, finance and public administration, and Aboriginal enterprise.
The Advisory Council will provide advice on future regional investment priorities and opportunities. It is intended to also be involved in stakeholder consultation on reforming the Regional Development Act 2004 to place the interests of rural and regional communities at the centre of government decision-making.
Frequently asked questions – Regional Advisory Council
The NSW Government is re-establishing the Regional Development Advisory Council to advise the Minister and help ensure the regions remain at the centre of government decision-making.
The Regional Development Advisory Council will be appointed by the Minister for Regional NSW under Part 3 of the Regional Development Act 2004.
The Regional Development Advisory Council will be appointed for an initial period of 12 months to help establish the governance framework for the Regional Development Trust Fund and to support consultation on modernising the Regional Development Act 2004.
The council will be appointed directly by the Minister for an initial period of 12 months based on an independent evaluation process.
An expression of interest process will be undertaken after the initial appointment period.
The Regional Development Advisory Council will have two key priorities:
- Advise the Minister in consultation on modernising the Regional Development Act 2004
- Advise the Minister to establishing a robust governance framework for the Regional Development Trust Fund.
In the long term, the Advisory Council will:
- Facilitate engagement and consultation with regional communities
- provide advice to the Minister for Regional NSW, Regional Ministers and the NSW Government on regional priorities, and
- provide independent oversight on the administration of the Regional Development Trust Fund.
The Minister for Regional NSW will announce the Regional Advisory Council members by the end of 2023.
The Regional Development Act 2004 exists to provide a framework to guide government action and improve outcomes for regional NSW. It has not been reviewed in more than a decade and needs to be modernised to ensure it can meet the changing needs of regional communities.
Reviewing the Regional Development Act 2004 is part of the NSW Government’s plan to ensure transparency and accountability in how public funds are invested to deliver better outcomes in regional and rural communities.
Frequently asked questions - The Regional Development Act 2004
Since the Regional Development Act 2004 was first introduced nearly 20 years ago, rural and regional communities have changed significantly. Key changes include:
- Relocation of families and young people from metropolitan centres such as Sydney and Melbourne to regional centres including Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga
- A change in work arrangement has encouraged patterns that has encouraged a shift in professional services and regional communities
- Continued growth in advanced manufacturing and renewable energy
- Challenges in ensuring essential services like health and education, and provision for housing and infrastructure, keep pace with community demands and expectations.
Updating the Regional Development Act 2004 will create a sound legislative foundation for strategic investment and enable greater response to needs of regional NSW communities.
The Regional Development Act 2004 includes key elements for investment in regional and rural communities including:
- outlines the Objects of the Act
- enabling the Minister to grant financial assistance to persons, industries or businesses,
- establishing a framework and conditions for assessing whether financial assistance may be granted to individuals, industry or business,
- enabling financial assistance to be a rebate on payroll tax, and
- allowing the Minister the power to require a person to repay financial assistance.
Regional Development Trust Fund:
- establishes the Regional Development Trust Fund including how money is to be invested in and paid out of the Trust Fund
Regional Development Advisory Council:
- enables the Minister to establish a Regional Development Advisory Council (the Council) and the functions of the Council.
The NSW Government will seek input from rural and regional communities on proposed reforms including:
- amending the objects to include ecologically sustainable development, equal access to essential services and support for diversification, adaptation and resilience of regional economies
- modernising the governance of the Regional Advisory Council to ensure it represents contemporary regional communities and can work effectively with Aboriginal communities, non-government organisations and industry
- improving the prudential arrangements of the Regional Development Trust Fund with a focus on transparency, accountability and improved outcomes
- enabling the private sector, other jurisdictions and philanthropic investment into the Regional Development Trust Fund
- establishing a transparent and robust reporting framework to ensure decision-making is evidence-based and data-informed to track the effectiveness of policies and programs in rural and regional communities.
Consultation on the Regional Development Act 2004 will commence with the release of an Issues Paper in November 2023. The government will then consider feedback received during the consultation process and recommendations provided by the Regional Development Advisory Council.