REGIONAL areas are losing political representation as populations decline, meaning councils should call for better infrastructure to encourage residents to relocate from the city, according to former member for Orange now councillor Russell Turner.
All councillors agreed to ramp up efforts for more infrastructure for regional areas, namely the Bells Line expressway, when Orange City Council representatives attend June’s National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra.
Cr Turner said growing the central west’s population should be used as the justification for building the Bells Line expressway as other arguments such as the number of traffic accidents and reductions to travel time did not “stack up”.
“I believe we need to broaden the reason why we need that Bells Line of Road,” he said.
“It would be the umbilical cord of future growth of not only Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo, but also the smaller towns as well.”
“It doesn’t matter who it is, Labor, Liberal or independent, they’re not sitting down in Macquarie Street representing the country"
The regional seat of Murrumbidgee was abolished through the state government’s most recent electoral redistribution largely because of the declining numbers of regional voters.
Cr Turner was concerned about the loss of a regional state seat.
“Because we’re not keeping up with the population growth of the city, we’re going through distribution and we’re losing a seat in the country,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, Labor, Liberal or independent, they’re not sitting down in Macquarie Street representing the country.”
With half of Sydney’s population living west of Parramatta, Cr Turner believes improving the Bells Line would encourage more to come over the Blue Mountains to visit to cities like Orange for weekends away or even relocate permanently.
Cr Neil Jones said if the central west lobbied for a long-awaited fast train to cut through the area it could do away with the need for the Bells Line of Road.
But Cr Reg Kidd disagreed and said the Bells Line was the number one priority of many councils for years.
“The fast train is out there in the cloud somewhere,” he said.
“There is more benefit for the central west from roads.”
Cr John Davis said the figures to justify a Bells Line expressway did not stack up, but “neither did the Sydney Harbour Bridge”.
Cr Kevin Duffy said with job losses across Australia and the federal government’s pro-infrastructure message, the central west should be pushing for more infrastructure, especially dams.
But Cr Jeff Whitton was negative about the chances of securing the extra investment.
“We’ll never get a road out here until voters turn their seats into marginal seats,” he said.