Political work does take a long time to land, but we now have the $110 million local hospital extension at Port Macquarie, and I've received great feedback from many who have used it, and those that work there on a daily basis. We also now have the two University projects - Charles Sturt and the University of NSW expansion in Port Macquarie - complete and operating. Both are expecting to expand within the region at great pace. There is no question that these decisions, and this work, from nearly a decade ago is now bearing great fruit.
But it is wrong if the community now rests on this prior work, and merely celebrates the opening of buildings with the misplaced thinking that all is complete. It's not.
Patting each other on the back and fancy ribbon-cuttings does not secure our future as a region. We have a long way to go in order toproperly support young people in our area.
Coffs Harbour, a city I have yet to represent but am very keen to partner with, has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country. Port Macquarie, a city I know well, has failed so far, to deliver basic transport links between its new University and its CBD. And together, both Coffs and Port can do so much more in integrating transport networks throughout the entire region, bringing the Macleay and the Nambucca much closer together for so many more locals.
If we want to keep young people engaged and involved in our Mid North Coast communities, then integration of services, and collaboration on events and opportunities, is the glaring unaddressed challenge we all face.
Some local Councils are working hard to combat these problems and have ideas on solutions. However, I don't know about the current batch of wall-to-wall National Party Federal and State MP's within the area's former 'safe seats'. If elected outside of the Nationals monopoly, whenever the next election occurs, I am very keen to see young people front and centre of the future growth strategy of our region. Because by doing so, we all benefit.
The work of getting more University engagement within our region was long and hard. Over the coming month, we'll once again see the ribbon-cutters come to town, to cut the opening ribbon on the new University buildings, say nice things, and then go again. The lingering question for those of us who remain is, what's next? How do we maximise the opportunities from these new education facilities? How do we make sure the student experience is the best in the country, and we become an attractive area for students from around the world to come and study?
These are the questions that keep me engaged and wanting to do more, because if these questions are left unanswered, the whole point of a decade long campaign to get the facilities to our local region will be lost. And then we're in trouble.
It is great that we have the buildings, and it is a case of 'so far so good' on University growth. But without further hard work and planning, without further resources and investment from Federal and State Governments, the journey gets hard quickly. And with the education strategy now central to future economic growth for our region, we all deserve better than some "build it and they will come", "cross the fingers and hope" community plan for young people. Sadly, this looks like what we are getting from Governments at the moment.
And this is why I invite all to listen to the attached piece of journalism. Young people from the region talking with other young people, about the problems and challenges we face. Please listen and share.