It might be Valentines Day, but it’s unlikely there’ll be much love in the air as NSW Farmers Regional Debate Series brings senior politicians to Armidale next Tuesday to debate regional issues ahead of the state election.
The Armidale debate on Tuesday, February 14, will feature Deputy Premier Paul Toole, Shadow Minister for Regional NSW Mick Veitch, Greens spokesperson Sue Higginson and Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers spokesperson Mark Banasiak.
NSW Farmers Policy Director Kathy Rankin said regional liveability was a key issue in attracting and retaining workers to support agricultural production in the next term of government.
“We want to hear from all sides of politics about how they propose to tackle these big issues of health, education, housing and service delivery,” Ms Rankin said.
“We saw a lot of people move out of the cities into the bush during COVID, and now those communities are feeling the strain in accessing health services and less affordable housing.”
“But there are also a number of really fundamental issues like access to internet and banking services that are moving backwards, and so we consider the issue of regional liveability among our priorities.”
Polling commissioned by NSW Farmers revealed the number one issue for voters was the cost of living with high food and grocery costs likely to make an impact at the ballot box. Ms Rankin said savvy politicians would be finding ways to secure the longevity of food production in NSW.
“Farmers produce the food and fibre we all need, but they can’t do it alone – we need the right mix of skills and workers to get that food from farm gate to dinner plate,” Ms Rankin said.
“The message we are getting out to decision-makers and voters is that investing in agriculture benefits regional communities and therefore is essential because we have seen the pain that supply chain disruptions can cause for people.”
“We want to highlight that in order to keep food affordable, we need a sustainable and functioning agriculture sector and that means strong regions and clear workforce attraction and retention strategies.”
The Regional NSW Debate will be held at Armidale City Bowling Club from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesday, February 14. Places are strictly limited – visit https://form.jotform.com/holleyt/regional-debate-armidale-rsvp-form to register for the event.