Business forum a catalyst for change

FORUM: Roger Paul, Brad Riddle, Peter Scott, Howard Coote and Dion Dorward from Regional Development Australia Whyalla Eyre Peninsula at the Wudinna community business forum. Picture: Jean Spence
FORUM: Roger Paul, Brad Riddle, Peter Scott, Howard Coote and Dion Dorward from Regional Development Australia Whyalla Eyre Peninsula at the Wudinna community business forum. Picture: Jean Spence

Exploring new opportunities and planning a path forward were the main points of discussion at the Wudinna District Council’s community business forum on Monday.

The forum included representatives from Regional Development Australia Whyalla Eyre Peninsula (RDAWEP) to speak about the business outlook for the district and Eyre Peninsula.

There were about 50 people in attendance and the council’s economic and community development officer Craig Midgley said he hoped the forum could be the catalyst for giving the business community a push.

“It was a good night and I was heartened to see the community response in terms of where business is heading in the future,” he said.

“RDA provided an overview of the outlook for regional and local business and they have an interest in diversifying the economy and creating new opportunities for the area.

“It was a well-grounded overview of the current Eyre Peninsula business climate.”

Developments within energy and agriculture were discussed, while exploring new opportunities in tourism was also on the agenda.

“Tourism is seen as the major untapped industry in the area,” Mr Midgley said.

“There are opportunities in tourism that we haven’t explored yet, and we are looking at how tourism sits and how we can take advantage of those opportunities.”

RDAWEP chief executive officer Dion Dorward said they were pleased to be invited by the council to attend the workshop to discuss regional and global economic trends and how they might affect the Wudinna community into the future. 

“Since 2001 we have seen significant changes in Eyre Peninsula’s economy and employment, such as a 19 per cent reduction in employment in agriculture and a 39 per cent increase in jobs in health and community services (and) it’s vital that we recognise these current employment, economic and population trends and work with communities to find localised solutions within a strategic regional economic development context that will ensure a vibrant future,” he said.

“RDAWEP has been working hard across government, business and communities to help remove impediments to regional and local economic growth such as energy, water, transport and major infrastructure, and RDAWEP have also focused significant resources on driving new investment aimed at diversifying local economies and reducing the risk of reliance on a single economy in our regional cities and communities.

“It was pleasing to see so many local businesses attend the workshop, we need to continue to work with communities and businesses to diversify local economies, value-add to our region’s world-class products, adapt to new technology and bring new opportunities and investment into the region.”

Mr Dorward said RDAWEP was working with a number of companies looking to innovate and invest in the fields of renewable energy, intensive agriculture and horticulture, mining and tourism in the Wudinna area.

Mr Midgley said the community response to the forum showed there was an appetite to explore new opportunities in the Wudinna region.

He said the next step was to put a plan in place to enact change.

“There is a lot of interest for the community to get together and organise and be a more proactive voice for business in the district, and we also looked at the way the business community can organise itself with council,” he said.

“We want to work with the Wudinna and Districts Business and Tourism Association, which will be the vehicle for moving things forward, and I need to stand up more in my role and work with the group.

“We are mapping the course ahead, we want to meet with clear strategies like addressing tourism and exploring new opportunities, so we need a clear plan of action.”