The establishment of a new government department dedicated to regional NSW has been largely welcomed, but Deputy Premier John Barilaro has been warned that communities would expect to see results.
The NSW government established the Department of Regional NSW "to better coordinate support for communities, businesses and farmers in the bush that have endured drought, bushfire and flood and now face the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic".
Mr Barilaro said the department would bring together Primary Industries, Local Land Services, Resources and Geoscience and regional coordination across government to form a central agency dedicated to regional issues.
Alan Brown from the Wagga branch of NSW Farmers said that if the new department produced better results for regional NSW, it was a good thing.
"But if it's another bureaucracy, we've got plenty of those already," he said.
Ken Dale from the Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce said a number of people in the Snowy Valleys had already had dealings with the new department as work began to rebuild the region after the devastating January bushfires.
"The feedback I've had so far has been positive. People who have had dealings with the department said there has been a lot more opportunity for one-on-one help," Mr Dale said.
Mr Barilaro said the government was urgently responding to the needs of people in the regions, and this new agency would "work to ensure community wellbeing, resilient economies and strong key regional industries".
"We know that the issues faced by the people of Cootamundra are very different to those faced in Coogee and so it is imperative we have a government designed to properly support every corner of this state," he said.
"This department will allow a more streamlined response to regional issues as experts in areas such as primary industries, land management, resources, regional development, drought response and bushfire recovery work closer together than ever before."
Andrew Cottrill, the Riverina-Murray regional manager of the NSW Business Chamber, said business owners were scrambling to make rapid changes to adapt and survive the economic impact of COVID-19.
"Many businesses have needed to go into hibernation with major staffing reductions or closures, while others have needed to reinvent themselves to maintain operations through the lockdown," Mr Cottrill said.
"We believe the new department will enable a higher degree of focus on initiatives that will aid our regional economic recovery.
"We know from our experience with the bushfire and drought crises that there isn't a one size fits all solution. With the newly empowered Department for Regional NSW, we have an opportunity to engage local stakeholders in the recovery planning and actions."
Andrew Bowcher, a business reconstruction and advisory professional from accountancy firm RSM, said while recent rain had brought a more positive outlook for regional areas, recovery was going to take a long time, particularly as many businesses and growers were dealing with the effects of drought, summer bushfires and now coronavirus.
Member for Wagga Joe McGirr has also welcomed the creation of the new department.
"What we have seen when it comes to drought, floods and bushfires in regional areas like Wagga is a disappointing and at times frustrating disconnect between the coordination of support and the needs of rural and regional residents," Dr McGirr said.
"Rather than becoming just another bureaucracy, it is my hope this new department will bridge that gap between government and people of the bush, so services and programs can be designed with a regional focus."