Orange City Council could be enlisted to recruit for nurses, tradies and farmers in a push to settle new migrants into regional areas under changes to Australia's migration program.
With the aim to ease population growth in capital cities while filling rural job shortages, Orange mayor Reg Kidd said to avoid creating further problems it would be important to identify a genuine skills shortage before recruiting foreigners.
“I’m not for relocating people where there is no employment,” Cr Kidd said.
“It’s critical to make sure there aren’t deficits in agriculture and nursing but you don’t want to cut off Australians looking for work or cut off opportunities for young people graduating.”
The changes would give sponsorship powers to local government, meaning visas would be tied to living in a regional area, rather than a job with a particular employer.
While Australia's population hit 25 million at 11pm on Tuesday, Department of Home Affairs figures show 87 per cent of the 112,000 skilled migrants who arrived last year settled in Sydney or Melbourne.
Under the proposal, councils which identified a worker shortage would be able to sponsor overseas workers from multiple occupations and be responsible for marketing and recruiting for their areas internationally.
Cr Kidd said he thinks the idea “has merit” and will be discussed at the Local Government NSW conference later this year.
“As a local council you have a better idea of what’s happening in your patch,” he said.
The program is already in swing in Northern Territory.