The state’s peak agricultural body has warned both sides of politics must not lose sight of the bush in the final weeks of the campaign.
Both the Coalition and Labor had made big commitments to health funding recently, promising new hospitals and investments in health services. However, NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin noted there was a heavy focus on Western Sydney from both major parties, and urged them to look beyond the urban sprawl of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong.
“There’s been a lot of focus during the campaign on Western Sydney and that strip of ‘Regional’ NSW that sits between Newcastle and the South Coast,” Mr Martin said.
“Our message to Minns and Perrottet is clear: Look beyond the tar and cement and ensure you will deliver services for the millions who don’t live on the coast.
“Rural health is an ongoing crisis, as is cost of living and housing affordability, and our communities deserve investments in education and infrastructure just as much as the cities do.”
While Western Sydney was one of the fastest-growing parts of the country, Mr Martin said, there was a stark need for improvements in rural and remote NSW where the state’s food and fibre was produced.
“Agriculture is a key pillar of the state economy, and whoever forms government after March 25 will need to govern for the whole state,” Mr Martin said.
“This means listening to the country as well as Campbelltown, and having more than just a ‘plan’.
“Promising a bunch of new paramedics or teachers is fine in theory, but actually getting it done is something else entirely.”
Improving rural and regional resilience and meeting housing, skills and service needs was critical to set country communities up for success, Mr Martin said.
“Governments need to genuinely engage with people to find out where the needs and the limitations are,” Mr Martin said.
“The fact of the matter is that there are unique challenges in addressing regional liveability and productivity, but it is critical to ensuring our future food and fibre supply.
“If the ‘regional renaissance’ that emerged during COVID is to have long-term staying power, these areas must be well-equipped for the future.”