ORANGE in regional NSW will be home base for the Coalition’s new $4 billion Regional Investment Corporation (RIC).
Also known as the “Barnaby Bank” after Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, the RIC will aim to streamline the delivery of drought support loans and water infrastructure financing.
It will come under the portfolio powers of Mr Joyce’s Agriculture and Water Resources Department and saw $28.5 million allocated in last week’s budget to formally establish the new entity in 2018.
Mr Joyce announced today that Orange would be the new base for the RIC when it’s due to open next year, alongside local Nationals Calare MP Andrew Gee who replaced former Shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb at last year’s federal election.
Last week after the budget, Mr Joyce said a number of regional towns would make good candidates to host the RIC which he expects to base up to 100 staff, once fully operational.
The new commonwealth agency that aims to supersede state bureaucracies to expedite delivery of concessional loans to farmers battling drought or other extreme financial challenges was an agricultural election policy commitment by the Coalition, announced by Mr Joyce in last year’s campaign.
Mr Joyce says the RIC being based in Orange also supports the government’s decentralisation agenda, to boost regional growth by locating agencies with a strong regional focus in the communities they serve.
The RIC will streamline delivery $2b in concessional loans for farm businesses and $2b for water infrastructure.
Mr Joyce said locating the RIC in Orange “makes sense” while building on the existing base of agricultural investment institutions in the city, including the NSW Rural Assistance Authority and Macquarie Bank’s Paraway Pastoral livestock enterprise.
“Orange is an important agricultural hub in a region which generates about $1.7 billion in gross agricultural production, and is the home of the NSW Department of Primary Industries,” he said.
“Establishing the RIC here will present new growth opportunities for the city and surrounding area, creating expanded career pathways for regional people.”
Mr Gee said he had strongly advocated for the RIC to be established in the Calare electorate which would bring about 30 skilled jobs initially, with the capacity to grow as needed.
Mr Joyce said Orange was renowned for what it was doing in the financing sector with various banking and related agencies in the vicinity.
“We want to be part of creating a centre of excellence – a financing centre of excellence - making Orange a hub of financing in a booming rural economy,” he said.
“The movement of this multi-billion dollar organisation, the establishment in Orange, will assist with attracting further people in the financing sector to come to here to become synonymous with rural financing, in the city of Orange and central-west NSW.”
Mr Joyce said the RIC would open its doors by July 1, 2018, with 25 staff initially.
“It has the capacity to grow vastly more staff – as it heads to a $4b book it’s going to need more staff,” he said.
Mr Joyce said locating the RIC in Orange went “hand in glove” with other decentralisation moves from Canberra into regional centres, like the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Grains Research and Development Corporation Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and Murray Darling Basin Authority.
NFF welcome Orange for RIC
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson said it made sense for an agency charged with administering concessional loans to farmers to be based in the regions where farm businesses operate.
Ms Simson said for some time, feedback from NFF members had been that accessing drought support was a convoluted and cumbersome process.
She said at a state and federal level, monies are made available with the best interests of farmers in mind, however the red tape involved “often actually defeats its purpose”.
“In some cases the process for accessing financial help causes more angst for farmers at a time when there is already high pressure,” she said.
“It just makes sense for all farm finance support to be handled by one federal agency.
“Certainty over when and where the RIC will be operating is welcomed - we look forward to being updated as the project progresses.”