Recap of our Inland Growth Summit - Housing 2021

RDA Orana teamed up with RDA Riverina to host its fourth Inland Growth Summit, with a focus on Housing.

12 3 4

Official opening

Demographic changes, regional growth, employment demand, and multiple other factors have collided to create a really stressful situation in a number of inland communities. The Hon Mark Coulton MP pointed out at the beginning of the day, not long ago communities were offering farmhouses for peppercorn rents, desperate to get people into some areas of regional New South Wales. Now, the focus is so strongly on people moving to the regions. So, we do need some innovative solutions. Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, the Hon Nola Marino MP set the scene supporting a collective response across all levels of government. She reminded us that mateship and collaboration are very much in our DNA as regional Australians and asked us as a collective to leverage that.

It's particularly important when, as we've heard a number of times during the day, we've got a multi-billion dollar infrastructure spend coming down the pipeline that will be of enormous benefit, but we'll also continue to put real pressure on housing. NSW Minister for Housing, the Hon Melinda Pavey MP also noted that this is essentially a positive issue in many respects, but one that requires flexible solutions. Among them, the New South Wales government has identified and indexed all the crown land that's available, all 250,000 parcels of it. And that includes land where zoning could be changed. The site where you can find that is:

Session 1

Peta Gilhome from Domain, presented some really interesting data, pointing out that COVID and housing had this fascinating effect where the market remains extremely strong in many areas and COVID could be a generational change for housing and regional community growth. It is a real change in housing pressures in inland New South Wales, particularly because current workforce trends are really enabling dispersed work patterns. And that's not just the high profile coastal destinations, but also the major regional centres. She pointed out that "rivers outrank beaches", which is good news for many of us and that in-depth data she was able to access about who's moving where and why and from where. Data that many of you identified as very valuable.
Neil Barber, from the Australian Red Cross, pointed out the positive economic influence of migration and that migration to the regions is not disconnected from urban migration patterns. Much regional migration is still temporary, but there are ways to harness it for regional benefit. Large migration clusters in major cities do stress services. So, there's a push to bring migrants into regional areas and to keep them there. That's problematic in some ways as there's a risk of exploitation with some private rental arrangements, particularly given it can be very tough for refugees and migrants to access employment, but there's an opportunity for some lateral thinking around incentives. If we can work together across government and private providers to meet their needs and to acknowledge that for migrants and refugees, smaller communities, places like Temora and Leighton and Walla Walla the shift could be quite appealing for some families in that cohort.
Julie Briggs also talked to us about a flexible local approach to solving these problems. It was astonishing to hear that in some communities there is not a single house to rent. And with that billions of dollars in infrastructure investment on its way, the lack of housing can be a handbrake on growth. So, how do we unlock land that's zoned for housing, but not being developed? Julie suggested possibly a revolving infrastructure fund that recognized the upfront costs of things like water and electricity and sewage, which also has a long lead time. She also suggested that the State Government could work via local government with developers so that repayments could be made as sales.

Our final speaker of the session, Dr Kim Houghton, from RAI talked to us about some of the key economic drivers in this situation of pent up demand, regional growth driven by prices that were originally significantly lower than the urban centres, demographic trends that are bringing cashed-up urban people to the regions and putting pressure on the locals. And he said, importantly that many more people are choosing to stay in the regions and that's driving historically low availability in many areas. Well below the long-term average, rentals are tied up for new arrivals. There is on the positive side, a record level of building approvals. Although, we don't have good data on what investors are doing in the regions. It will all take time to flow through and mend that supply issue. But Kim warned us that population predictions have often been on the low side. So, we need to just be conscious of those growth scenarios, particularly in our larger centres.

Session 2

Session two was on ideas and solutions. Mike Day talked to us about the art of timeless town planning and the neighbourhood unit. He seeded the idea of affordable living versus affordable housing and pointed out that well-designed neighbourhoods can actually be cheaper to live in. They reduce transport costs, they reduce heating costs. It's quite old fashioned thinking in many ways about what makes people feel comfortable and connected and at home, really simple things: the north face in courtyards, good street frontages, pleasant well-designed spaces, even if they're small, and the idea of walkable neighbourhoods (living 20 minutes from anywhere).

Brendan Grylls also gave us a really powerful presentation on housing pressures and warned us about what had happened in the Pilbara. Massive mining-led growth as a template for what we're experiencing and perhaps what we need to avoid. So, social housing models might be well-established, but where do we go beyond that for workers? How do we avoid those damaging boom and bust cycles for service workers? And the answer in the Pilbara was the service worker housing program where rents could be managed separately to the market. Brendan also introduced the concept of lifestyle villages for service workers. Brendan made the powerful point that the market wasn't normal and when that happens, it doesn't attract normal levels of investments. So, it requires robust policy approaches to ensure that we don't lose service workers via a completely unfettered housing market.

Peter Vlatko, General Manager of Cobar Shire Council talked about issues around employer engagement in growth issues. Large employers and projects want the people, but they're not so invested in ensuring that they remain in communities. He pointed to difficult social issues where the miners are welcomed, whether they become part of the community, social and economic structure. And if miners are flying in or flying out or busing or busing out, that doesn't happen. So, local governments need to work really hard to try to bring those people into the community without developing mining camps.

Session 3

In our Innovations Session, Tom O'Dea from the NBN talked to us about digital infrastructure, now recognized as critical as roads and water. The potential upgrade paths are evolving constantly, including the sky muster satellite. And again, we heard about a huge amount of network investment, $4.5 billion worth of it coming to enable more Australians to access higher speed. He says 75% of people in fixed-line networks should be able to do so. We could all have an average of up to 30 connected devices in our homes in the next decade. So, it's critical for business, but a strong personal expectation for building regional communities.

Nick Lane told us that it takes around three years for people to fully settle into their new communities. And he pointed to the need for available transition housing so that people who do come to the regions can build relationships and decide to stay. It takes a long time, he said, to meet the rising demand, but coupled with that is a sustained infrastructure boom that gives us huge opportunities for social and economic uplift. Riverina alone has many, many millions of dollars in the infrastructure pipeline with more than 7,000 jobs attached to it and that needs capacity. There need to be workers to build everything that's associated with that infrastructure. If we're without the capacity, we miss out on opportunities, we create stressful and difficult situations for the existing workforce and reminding ourselves that existing regional populations are aging. So, let's not repeat the mining boom issues that are so well outlined by Brendan and Peter. We need housing to be a critical factor in the planning processes as the boom gathers speed.

Catherine Brazier talked to us about efficient environmentally sustainable opportunities for well-designed prefabricated homes, not what you would have thought of in the past. We're talking construction on steel frames with double glazing insulation, so much more attractive as an option. And it also responds to the skill shortage we've been hearing about. It's a small part of the construction industry, but growing fast with plenty of opportunities for not just houses, but also other sustainable buildings and facilities for communities.

And we also heard from Tony Balding about the possibilities for resilient housing that meets particular needs but is well-made and it's efficient, particularly for people who've been through disasters. He mentioned an eight-hour install with building methods for a house, plus a granny flat, painters inside within weeks. The capacity for adaption to extreme fire zones, meeting insurance requirements, and that in turn makes refinancing and rebuilding for disaster recovery more possible.

Session 4

Our final session was challenging the norm. We started with Garry Fielding, who talked to us about the search for solutions within the New South Wales planning system, including identifying the issues and trends in regional communities. The act of search for solutions for greater housing choice, supply, and affordability are being identified in regional New South Wales. We expect that report in October this year, but Gary said the impact of very little rental availability is abundantly clear in many regional areas. Housing stress and the following pressures are growing rapidly. And that includes social pressures too. Where do you find social housing, for example? Where do you find crisis accommodation in this demand heavy market, especially when the pipeline is slow to respond? And added to this there is the issue around the stock itself, is unlocking new sites always the answer? Not necessarily.

David Fisher, CEO of Housing Plus also stressed to us just recently how difficult this all becomes when there are 1.4 million people in some form of housing stress right now, and by affordable housing, he means housing 20% below the market average. Where then do we put people who need refuge? People, who need emergency accommodation? He pointed out that community housing providers are charitable. They don't pay GST or land tax or stamp duty. So, collaborating with them regarding community housing makes it possible to achieve good solutions for your community efficiently and effectively. There are 50,000 people on the waiting list and growing, nothing will be solved by a single agency, but that collaboration with community housing providers does mean that there are economic benefits and that's in construction, in securing workforce, in all the issues that we've been talking about.

Brett Stonestreet, GM of Griffith City Council and Justin Nyholm, CEO of Argyle Housing talked about how effective those collaborative approaches can be and also the lessons learned. Among them, the need for really extensive community consultation, understanding what the community values, which might be unexpected, perhaps not what you would have thought it would be, but we also saw the picture of what long-term close collaboration can achieve. Our final speaker, Jenny Mattila talked about the time required to solve the housing issue, with fast grants and quick politics not being able to budge deep-seated complex housing issues.

To rewatch the presentations: 

Wrap up


Session 1 - Welcome and Current State of Play

Session 2 - Successful Projects and Initiatives

Session 3 - Innovation

Session 4 - Future Outlook, Challenging the Norm


Our speakers



Minister Melinda Pavey

Melinda Pavey is the New South Wales Minister for Water, Property and Housing, appointed in April 2019 under the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government. Minister Pavey has been a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 2015, representing the seat of Oxley for The Nationals. Melinda previously served as the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight. (2017-2019) and was the first woman to hold this Ministerial position. She was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council (2002-2015). She also served as the Shadow spokesperson for Emergency Services and the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health. Melinda grew up on a dairy farm in regional Victoria. She has two children and enjoys surf lifesaving, netball and bike riding. As a country girl, Melinda is passionate about advocating for rural communities and issues that matter to families across the state.

RDA - Template for Speaker Bios (4)

Justin Nyholm 

Acting CEO & Property and Asset Services Manager. Justin has over 30 years’ experience in the building and civil construction and maintenance sectors. This experience has been with Corporate, State & Local Government and the Not for Profit Sectors. Justin experience ranges from residential, industrial, public infrastructure and air transport facilities. In his 3 years with Argyle Housing, Justin has delivered many housing projects and worked closely with the NSW State Government, Councils and other CHP’s to progress major Social and Affordable Housing opportunities in regional areas.


Genevieve Jacobs (MC)

Genevieve Jacobs is the Group Editor for Region Media, Australia's fastest growing digital news platform. Genevieve chairs the ACT arts minister's Creative Advisory Council and co-chairs the ACT Reconciliation Council. She sits on the boards of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, the National Folk Festival and is deputy chair of the Canberra International Music Festival. She is also a director of the Conflict Resolution Service and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. She was made an AM in the Australia Day honours list for her service to public broadcasting and the community. Genevieve has an enduring interest in building community engagement and is a partner in the family farming enterprise.


Brett Stonstreet

Brett Stonestreet was appointed as Griffith City Council's General Manager in August 2011. Brett has over 40 years of experience in local government and has spent a significant period of that time as a CEO, Group Manager and General Manager in Moyne Shire (Victoria), Gunnedah Shire, Cobar Shire and Barraba Shire Councils. Brett holds a Bachelor of Business Degree (Local Government).


Dr Kim Houghton

Dr Kim Houghton is Chief Economist at the Regional Australia Institute. Kim manages the Institute’s policy and research portfolio to ensure that the work has practical application and supports a better policy environment and more vibrant regional economies. Kim has played a leading role in recent research on population mobility in regional Australia, analysis of regional labour markets, and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on regional economies.


Mike Day

A co-founder and partner at HATCH | Roberts Day, Mike has moderated visioning + planning design forums and led the firm’s design teams responsible for an array of urban renewal projects and new towns throughout Australia, New Zealand, UAE and Asia since the inception of the company in 1993.Based in Melbourne since 2005, Mike is leading the practice's design teams implementing new towns and urban renewal projects. Mike has held many positions as chair and deputy chair of planning committees in Western Australia and Victoria. Mike was the recipient of the 2018 Place Leaders Asia Pacific Centrepiece Award | Leadership Excellence in Promoting Walkable Urbanism.Mike is a Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Cr Greg Conkey OAM

Greg Conkey is an awarding-winning journalist and talented photographer who has had more than 30 years of experience working in rural and regional Australia. For 26 years he edited and managed The Riverina Leader newspaper in Wagga Wagga.  In 2005 Mr Conkey started his own public relations and media consultancy (Greg Conkey and Associates) drawing on his extensive media background and project work for numerous humanitarian causes. In January 2012 Mr Conkey was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to the Wagga Wagga community. Later that year he was elected as a City of Wagga Wagga Councillor and four years later was elected unopposed as Mayor. He was re-elected as Mayor in 2018 and again in 2020.


Neil Barber

Neil Barber manages Australian Red Cross Migration Support programs in South Western NSW, including the large residential accommodation program for Humanitarian settlement in Albury and Wagga Wagga - which involves coordination of an average 100 property leases at any one time across both cities as well as short term accommodation and responses to homelessness. Neil has a long association with social and community development in south-western NSW over the past 25 years and has a strong understanding of the capacities and barriers in relation to regional migration and settlement.

Peta Gilhome

Experienced Regional Account Manager highly skilled in Digital Strategy, Sales, Key Account Development, Business Development, and Marketing Strategy. With a passion for Regional NSW and Real Estate - building symbiotic relationships, connecting people and encouraging collaboration to grow our regional real estate industry. Strong sales professional with a Diploma of Business Management - Marketing focused in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services.


Julie Briggs

The principal of JBMS Consulting, She has worked with business and government for over twenty-five years. Since September of 1997 JBMS Consulting has provided CEO services to the Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils (REROC). A voluntary association of 8 Local Governments located in the eastern Riverina region of NSW. Julie's main role is to identify, initiate and implement projects that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of local government through collaboration.
Julie has been working with the REROC Member Councils and the Members of the Riverina Joint Organisation along with NSW Government Agencies, RDA Riverina and industry stakeholders on the development of a Regional Housing Strategy for the eastern Riverina.


David Fisher

David has been CEO of Housing Plus since 2016, where he has been championing the need for additional community services and more affordable housing across the Central and Far West regions of NSW. David is passionate about community based organisations, provision of opportunities and choice to tenants and developing the culture and impact of the organisation that he leads.
David is Vice Chair of the Homelessness NSW and President of NCOSS Boards and seeks to provide a regional perspective to these organisations. 

Jenni Mattila

Civitas Solutions Australia assists local government and their local communities to establish owner occupied housing co-operatives around Australia.
Civitas Solutions Australia works with local governments, banks and housing co-operatives to assist with finance for affordable housing not just in major cities but also in regional Australia where quality housing is in short supply.

Peter Vltako

Peter Vltako

Commenced in Local Government as a trainee Accountant back in 1976 and worked in both South Australia and NSW Councils and currently the GM in Cobar for over 5 years.

RDA - Template for Speaker Bios

Catherine Brasier

Catherine is Sales Manager at Prefabulous. Catherine has a background in Hotel Management, Wine Industry and Property. While the wine was great, for the past 15 years her focus has been on property development and sales for new projects in the retirement living and real estate sector. As a self-confessed 'modular home' nerd Catherine loves a design challenge with plenty of personal building experience. But more than anything Catherine is passionate about your Prefabulous journey and how you can experience the best of what we offer.


RDA - Template for Speaker Bios (1)

Garry Fielding

Qualified town planner with over 40 years experience in State and local government and the private sector. Worked at senior executive levels with the NSW Department of Planning and also as head planner with Newcastle, Woollahra and Maitland councils. Life Fellow and former NSW President of the Planning Institute of Australia
State-appointed Chair of the Western Regional Planning Panel.

Nick Lane

Nick focusses on developing business systems that deliver whole of community impact and uplift and has created a community development model to assist regional communities to tackle some of the critical issues that are facing them such as housing supply, population growth, skills, training, and employment pathways. In tackling the housing market failure that is constraining many regional cities and towns, he brings 20 year’s experience in innovation, complex systems management, project delivery, and development. He is also passionate about sustainable communities, collective impact, and placemaking. He is the co-founder for PassievPlace and Shift Regional, providing employment and housing solutions for regional Australia, and has extensive engagement and project experience in regional communities both here and overseas. 

Brendan Grylls

Brendan Grylls

Few people can bring 20 years of successful policy development and implementation in Northern Australia to the table, with an ongoing commitment to grow and develop the mining towns and cities of Northern Australia. Brendon Grylls, former politician, architect of the transformational Royalties for Regions program in Western Australia and now successful Pilbara based Managing Director of BGG has a track record of building policy platforms from - ‘that will never happen’ - to ‘how did that happen’?! Grylls has built a new life in the Pilbara after politics and is relishing utilising his skill set in assisting business in the corporate and small business sectors, in the vast Northwest where so many opportunities abound. He has established Brendon Grylls Group, providing strategy and business development advice to a diverse client base including agriculture, beef, aviation, indigenous corporations and the resource sector.

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Tony Blading

Managing Director of: The Building Supply Company, Buildpro Wagga , National tiles Wagga, lighting network Riverina, and Accelerated housing Company Pty Ltd. and recently divested business in Canberra building innovation centre. Currently Chairperson for the Riverina branch of the HIA a position held for 13 of the 18 years the branch has been reformed. Regional executive representative for ACT/Southern NSW HIA Board member of The Forrest centre Age care facilities. Life member of Apex Australia. Inductee into the HIA Riverina honor roll for Building Industry 2018. Strong focus on developing better ways of construction having been exposed to most if not all building systems over 40 years in residential, commercial and renovations. Having had the privilege to represent small to medium size builders on the board of HIA I have had exposure to many of the challenges in the industry from design, legislation, bureaucracy, and market trends.

8:00 AM
Grab your coffee and log in
8:15 AM
Welcome, Brad Cam, Chair RDA Orana and Dianna Somerville, Chair RDA Riverina Welcome to Country, Aunty Cheryl Penrith
8:30 AM
The official opening, The Hon Mark Coulton MP introducing
The Hon Nola Marino, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories
8:45 AM
The Hon Melinda Pavey MP, NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing
9:00 AM
9:05 AM
Keynote: A commercial eye, Peta Gilhome, Domain
9:25 AM
Migrant Housing Needs, Neil Barber, Australian Red Cross
9:45 AM
A local approach to housing analysis, Julie Briggs, REROC RIVJO
10:05 AM
Regional Housing Outlook, Kim Houghton, Regional Australia Institute
10:25 AM
Q&A Lead by Genevieve Jacobs, MC
10:35 AM
Short Break
10:45 AM
10:50 AM
Planning timeless communities, Mike Day, Hatch | Roberts Day
11:10 AM
Public-private investment in remote communities, Brendon Grylls
11:30 AM
Managing itinerant workers, Peter Vlatko, Cobar Shire Council
11:45 AM
Q&A led by Genevieve Jacobs, MC
11:55 AM
12:00 PM
Connect Communities, Tom O'Dea, NBN. Co
12:20 PM
Ethical housing, Nick Lane, Passive Place
12:40 PM
Pre-fabricated homes, a solution for now and for the future, Gavin King, Prefabulous
1:00 PM
Building the resilient House, Fire floods and Social housing, Tony Balding, Buildpro
1:20 PM
Q&A led by Genevieve Jacobs
1:30 PM
Lunch Break
1:40 PM
1:45 PM
NSW Regional Housing Taskforce, Garry Fielding, Chair
2:05 PM
The role of community housing in addressing shortages, David Fisher, Housing Plus
2:25 PM
Partnering to provide affordable housing, Brett Stonestreet, Griffith City Council and Justin Nyholm, Argyle Housing
2:45 PM
Financing regional housing, Jenni Mattila, CIVITAS
3:05 PM
Wrap up, Genevieve Jacobs, MC
3:15 PM

With thanks to our Sponsors

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Communications Partner



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Who is RDA Orana

Regional Development Australia Orana helps businesses large and small succeed in the Orana region. Led by business and community representatives, RDA Orana is strongly focused on diversifying the economic base of the region, workforce planning and development, business investment, infrastructure, and whole of government planning.

We recruit new businesses to the region, support the growth of existing Orana businesses, help manufacturers sell into international markets, provide start-up assistance to entrepreneurs and market the Orana as a premier travel destination. We also undertake extensive industry and market research to provide regional intelligence on critical regional development issues and find solutions to improve the Orana region for the future.

Our Mission is to build the region together, by providing regional intelligence that:

  • creates connections & partnerships

  • facilitates public & private sector investment

  • that supports the development of our workforce

To discover more about our initiatives visit For general inquiries, you can contact the office on 02 6885 1488 or email

Who is RDA Riverina

Regional Development Australia-Riverina (RDA-Riverina) is part of an Australian Government initiative based on building partnerships and ensuring that all governments and stakeholders are responsive to local priorities and needs. It is a conduit between government and local communities and a provider of information.

RDA-Riverina is a non-profit, community-based organisation, with a committee of 12 members spanning 14 local government areas who represent local communities, businesses and local government. RDA-Riverina’s committee has a broad and diverse skills base and demonstrated networks and alliances. RDAs are champions for local communities, working towards developing local solutions to local problems, and ensuring the prosperity of the regions.



8:00 am – 3:30 pm