Vital links for ag should be a priority

NSW Farmers is disappointed by Infrastructure Australia’s update to the national Infrastructure Priority List, which downplays the major role regional areas can make in a COVID-19 recovery.

NSW Farmers President James Jackson said the contribution of agriculture and regional communities to state and national economies can no longer be an afterthought, especially given the exponential growth of regional areas over the last year.

“Regional NSW makes up 40 percent of the state’s economy and generates one third of its total gross production. Agriculture alone adds just under $15.7 billion in economic output, of which a third is exported,” Mr Jackson said.

“It is therefore challenging to see that major road infrastructure to enable growth and productivity of agriculture is not identified as high priority by Infrastructure Australia.”

“The Western Sydney Airport is a high priority project, but the essential linkages west through the Great Western Highway and north through the Outer Sydney Orbital corridor preservation are only identified as initiatives – as yet un costed and un-planned.”

“NSW Farmers has been calling for significant improvements to the Great Western Highway to deliver a three hour journey from the Central West to the Western Sydney Airport Precinct. This must be escalated to high priority status to deliver the value adding and export benefits that agriculture needs to grow our output to $30 billion by 2030.”

“The record migration to the regions over the last year highlights the need for state of the art infrastructure for regional NSW. Be it roads or telecommunications – regional NSW deserves to be at the top of the Infrastructure Australia list.”

Mr Jackson said significant opportunities lie in enhancing supply chains connecting farms with domestic and global consumers, but these won’t be realised without meaningful investment.

“Our agricultural product is highly sought after – it achieves a premium at the checkout because of its high quality and freshness”, Mr Jackson said.

“Currently, our supply chains are inefficient, adding costs and time.”

“Without a commitment to significant improvement and prioritisation by the NSW Government, we wonder when regional NSW will see the commitment to infrastructure expansion that is evident within the Sydney metro region.”

“We echo calls made by the National Farmers’ Federation today for state and federal treasuries to review the high discount rates used to assess infrastructure proposals that disadvantage investment proposals in projects with long-term horizons, which includes most regional projects.”

“The current prioritisation system is broken, and it is high time it’s fixed.”

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