A proposal by Namoi Unlimited to include Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes and Walcha Council general manager Jack O’Hara in a delegation to China was sanctioned by Walcha Council last week.
Formerly known as Namoi Council’s Joint Organisation, the Namoi Unlimited collective includes Tamworth, Uralla, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Liverpool Plains, Gwydir, and Walcha councils.
Executive Officer Rebel Thomson said the trip proposed for March 2018 is part of a number of recommendations to come from the Future Factor Report that was established in 2015 and named “seven levers that would push the region along.”
“Ningbo is one of China’s largest sea ports – We would be looking to develop a relationship with the city and create a pathway into that part of China,” Ms Thomson said.
“Being a sea port city they have natural links to agri-business. At the moment we would be looking to establish a relationship with the region first, as well as looking for investment and investors - in the long term we could look to establishing trade.”
The organisation has put aside $40,000 of their original funding to pay for the seven mayors, although Mr O’Hara and other council members attending will do so at the cost of their own individual councils.
Mr Noakes said all the mayors and general managers from the six other Namoi United councils will be attending along with Ms Thomson.
“Ningbo was chosen as the destination as some member councils are already engaged in negotiations and memorandums of understandings with this region,” he said. “There are strong links and partnerships with industry and government. Walcha Council is broadly looking at agricultural, tourism and alternate energy as possible partnerships.”
Mr Noakes said he and Mr O’Hara were currently meeting with potential proponents to gauge interest in projects.
“It is envisaged that some projects in others council areas will also benefit Walcha” he said.
Namoi Unlimited Chair and Liverpool Plains mayor Andrew Hope said the individual councils will put together their own individual investment projects which will be sent to interested parties ahead of the proposed delegation.
“We would be looking to get Chinese investment into regional economic growth – anything that could value add to the region,” Cr Hope said.
“We will also be looking for the seven councils to develop sister relationships with seven provinces in Ningbo, while the JO (Joint Organisation) would have an over-arching relationship with the whole region.”
“I am not aware of any other regional cluster taking this approach before – It is pretty exciting,” Ms Thomson said.