Heart and soul of nation at risk

The iconic outback towns of Australian folklore are at real risk of dying out, according to a peak body.

Greg Rogers from NSW Farmers Western Division said the latest Census data revealed small communities in western NSW were shrinking at an alarming rate because of a perfect storm of population decline and substandard services.

“Population decline is a critical issue for the economic stability of these regions – once people move away it is very difficult to bring them back,” Mr Rogers said.

“When populations decline essential services are lost – banks, medical services, schools, retail outlets, and government agency shopfronts close.

“The bush is the heart and soul of our nation, but I’m afraid it will die out if we don’t do something to quickly reinvigorate these communities.”

The pace of regional investment has not kept up with the times despite many inner-city workers making a country escape during the pandemic, and Mr Rogers said it was clearly having an effect.

“Places like Brewarrina, Walgett, Bourke and Cobar have all shrunk significantly and a loss of residents means critical council services are reduced, which has a direct impact on the ability to maintain the local roads that are critical for inter- and intra-state freight,” Mr Rogers said.

“Farmers out west are expecting to see a third successive year of productive output growth, but this is at risk if we can’t attract and retain individuals and families to these areas.

“Agriculture is a major economic driver for our state, but we are already facing critical workforce shortages – a loss of local amenities makes it even harder to attract and retain critical skilled workers and their families.”

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