Eyre Peninsula councils have been urged to diversify and innovate with local industries to boost employment and investment and retain people in the region.
The Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association’s 11 member councils met at the Nautilus Theatre this week for the association’s 81st annual conference, which had the theme ‘Excel, Innovate and Thrive’.
Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula chief executive officer Dion Dorward spoke and the conference, providing an outlook as to why the region needed to follow this theme.
Mr Dorward said the unemployment rate on Eyre Peninsula was 7.7 per cent, above the Australian rate of 6.9 per cent, and from 2001 to 2016 agricultural employment fell by 19.6 per cent.
This was on top of a 30 per cent per annum rate of youth leaving the region.
Mr Dorward said eight Eyre Peninsula councils were dependent on agriculture and could be impacted by factors including market fluctuations as well as drought.
“These councils are aware of the potential of these impacts and have a number of projects done with RDA and industries to diversify their economies,” he said.
Mr Dorward said Whyalla was an example of diversification as a single-industry economy experiencing job losses and population decline recovered through investment into industries including defence, energy and tourism.
He said projects including the proposed Cape Hardy port could mean greater export opportunities and other industries thriving while tourism infrastructure such as Elliston’s coastal trail and Franklin Harbour’s foreshore development could attract visitors.
EPLGA president Sam Telfer said the conference pointed toward the need for member councils to work together to ensure a diverse economy.
It's important we work together as a region (to ensure) that we're relevant in the competitive marketplace and innovative in our thinking.Sam Telfer
“It's important we work together as a region (to ensure) that we're relevant in the competitive marketplace and innovative in our thinking,” he said.