Barooga forum

By Southern Riverina News

At least 200 people are expected to visit the region after Barooga was announced as host for the national Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia (SEGRA) conference in August.

The forum brings together regional development practitioners, industry, researchers and government to discuss development in Australia and will be taking place over three days, from August 20 to 22.

SEGRA 2019 was announced at the Barooga Golf Club last Thursday, where Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum and councillors from Berrigan and Moira shires were special guests.

For more than 23 years SEGRA has been speaking out for regional Australia, something Mr McCormack said is vital to the success of growing regional Australia.

‘‘It’s all about coming together as a community, and there is a community sense among politicians,’’ he said.

‘‘But it’s a lot easier for us when we have organisations such as SEGRA partnering with other groups such as local government and regional development authorities, who come to us as a collective.

‘‘Because all too often people come to us with problems, but never solutions. All too often people want one thing for their town, but if their town gets it the other one down the road complains.

‘‘What we want to do is get that community aspect and that united aspect, which SEGRA is doing.’’

Mr Drum said it was a case of ‘being in the right place at the right time’ that enabled him to encourage Mr McCormack to attend the event.

‘‘As soon as I saw this announcement was happening I thought, ‘we’ve got to be there’,’’ Mr Drum said.

‘‘Apart from the boost (it will provide) to the local economy for accommodation, restaurants, hospitality areas and service sector, it is also the coming together of minds.’’

Mr Drum said the conference would provide a chance to get projects off the ground faster — and to find solutions for existing problems.

‘‘There are so many serious regional debates that regional Victorians have already lost. If you want to have a conversation around water, most people in Melbourne and Sydney have these visions of the Darling, and ‘those bastard irrigators who are flogging all that water and killing all those fish’.

‘‘That’s what Melbourne and Sydney are thinking right now; we’ve lost this debate somehow. And so it’s SEGRA, with links to the universities and the academics who can bring some truth and facts back into the debate.

‘‘And moving into energy, we’re getting smashed in the energy debate because we live in a state that has forbidden any exploration or extraction of gas.

‘‘We have lost the debate on gas; it’s crazy. A fuel that burns 50 per cent cleaner than coal and can be the transitional fuel we need as we go toward renewables.

‘‘We have no doubt where we want to go with renewables but we’ve lost the way to get there, and SEGRA can play a role in opening up some minds and helping us, because we can’t just do it by being whingeing people from rural and regional Australia; we have to do it with science and academia.’’