Government collaboration to enhance new projects

Teamwork: Regional Development Australia Wheatbelt helped local governments secure $70 million for the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network. Photo: Eliza Wynn.
Teamwork: Regional Development Australia Wheatbelt helped local governments secure $70 million for the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network. Photo: Eliza Wynn.

A not-for-profit that helped connect 42 local governments to secure $70 million for the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network is hoping to unite other shires that have common aspirations for the region.

Regional Development Australia Wheatbelt director Mandy Walker said she wanted to see the success of the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network funding extended to other projects.

"As an incorporated not-for-profit, we're federally funded and it is our role to link local government with state government and federal government programs," she said.

"A lot of programs on a federal level look to RDAs as their intelligence gathering bodies.

"For us, in the Wheatbelt with 42 local governments, it is really important for us to connect and understand the diversity of issues that our region deals.

"We connect with our local governments to understand what their opportunities are, what their project ideas are, what their challenges are and their development aspirations around community and industry.

"We then get an idea of what local governments are trying to achieve and connect them to others that are trying to do a similar thing.

"It's a great demonstration of the power that comes from working together.

"We're a partner for local governments, an advocate for issues region-wide and a funding pathway."

Ms Walker said in the Wheatbelt, common-held projects and concerns revolve around transport, aged care and disability services.

"They're challenges that local governments are facing when looking after their communities and retaining population," she said.

"We also see projects and ideas around tourism.

"The opportunities in the Wheatbelt, whether it be astro-tourism, cultural tourism, food trails, historical pathways, are great ideas and projects."

Ms Walker said the announcement earlier this year of $70 million of government funding being put towards the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network, was of national importance.

"There is national interest in this collaboration model because no where else in Australia has 42 local governments worked together like that," she said.

"It really demonstrates that with collaboration you can achieve place-based solutions for your town with a regional approach.

"That model lets individual local governments be heard and represented in a wider regional context with state government agencies and industry."

The local director said the role of RDA Wheatbelt was to connect local governments with the other tiers of government in order to secure funding and make projects a reality.

"Our method is connecting one-on-one with our local governments, understanding their state of play, understanding where they see they need further assistance and advocacy and being creative and innovate with how we can partner and participate in their communities," she said