You may have thought RDA Wheatbelt has been a bit quiet lately, but we have been mindful of not wanting to bombard you with more information relating to the virus crisis. Be assured we have been working hard behind the scenes on a number of short term and long term actions.
Advice to Government – Before the end of March RDA Wheatbelt had provided Federal Ministers and Departments with a broad impact assessment on projected economic and social effects and foreseeable threats of COVID-19 on the Wheatbelt WA region, its businesses and population. The aim of this assessment was not only to begin to scope potential resilience, vulnerabilities and threats, but to also start the recovery conversation and activate the development of strategic recovery planning.
Australian RDAs, including our Director Regional Development Mandy Walker, have been in regular contact with Assistant Minister for Regional Development The Hon Nola Marino MP and advisors to inform of issues, opportunities and initiatives as they emerge. Board Members and Staff have also conducted phone conversations with CEOs or representatives of our 42 Local Governments to collect ‘on the ground’ intelligence on impacts and issues to further inform Government. Information from across Australia is communicated via regular bulletins on regional impacts and solutions to enable sharing of information.
Should you have more to add to this collective information please forward to email@example.com
Wheatbelt Business Support – The response measures to limit the spread of the virus are unprecedented and are having a profound impact on our region’s small to medium enterprises. It is our role as an RDA to facilitate economic and community support across the region. It has become increasingly clear through our one on one contact with Local Government, impact assessment across industries and collective intelligence across agencies that a timely and effective response to the need for business advice and support is required.
The Wheatbelt Development Commission and RDA Wheatbelt have agreed that supporting the Wheatbelt Business Network to be able to deliver their advisory services beyond their membership base is an appropriate way to deliver business support in the region. This financial support will assist the Wheatbelt Business Network to become a one-stop shop for all our small and medium businesses to get the support, information and understanding of the Governments support programs during this crisis period.
Recovery strategies –
Grant Guru opportunity - Wheatbelt Local Governments (LGs) and RDA Wheatbelt spend a huge amount of time looking for funding streams to progress projects and limited resources often mean our LGs are disadvantaged in their endeavours to access that elusive ‘pot of gold’. RDA Wheatbelt (RDAW) and RDA Midwest Gascoyne have worked with Grant Guru for a collaborative proposal for the 63 LGs in the two regions. This proposal offers an access point where grant searches can be tailored to needs, reducing the time spent researching, along with the resources to help produce a quality application. Subscription is based on Wheatbelt populations with smaller LGs at $300 and scaled up to the larger LGs at $1125, a fraction of the usual annual fee of $7000 per LG plus $2000 set up fee. This may be a valuable investment for COVID-19 recovery initiatives and Shires have been invited to participate.
Tourism – The tourism sector has been one of the hardest-hit industries in the Wheatbelt. Food and hospitality businesses have either closed outright or reduced trading. A key concern for RDAW is that allied tourism sectors of food and accommodation and retail are the largest employment sectors for the 15-24 years age range in the region. For instance agriculture, a major employment sector in the region employs 19% of the total 15-24 years’ workforce while the retail, food and accommodation sectors in aggregation employs 29%.
RDAW acknowledges that while it will be a long road back for the region’s tourism industry, it is important to support and maintain the fundamental basis of the industry that can be activated in the recovery process to stimulate employment and economic repatriation within and between Shires and across the region. To this end, RDAW is looking at how to develop tourism recovery strategies to support existing businesses during the crisis and grow tourism in the Wheatbelt region after the crisis has passed.
Stay safe – We thank everyone that is practising social distancing and ask that regional people continue to exclude any unnecessary activities that increases contact with others. The regional lockdown is there to protect our communities that may not have the capacity to cope with an infection cluster.
Photo - Lancelin, located in the Shire of Gingin. Credit RDAW