Rudd and La Trobe academic

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La Trobe University logo

At last  week's G20 meeting, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared the U.S city of Pittsburgh  as a prime example of a place that successfully reinvented itself in response  failing industries. ;

It is an  idea that La Trobe University academic Larry O'Connor has had for some time. He  says that the Sunraysia area in northern Victoria, should follow in the steps of Pittsburgh, and rethink its reliance on its agricultural industry if it is  to remain sustainable.

It could be that now is the time for  revolutionary change, Mr O'Connor says.

An accounting  lecturer at for La Trobe University's Regional School of Business in Mildura, Mr  O'Conner ;suggests the region must  consider moving away from fruit growing towards other light and heavy  industries that aren't reliant on water.

Many  viticulturalists have moved from flood irrigation to drippers. They now have  greater water efficiency which in turn has meant better productivity. But this  is just an eco-efficiency measure but it has already been be overwhelmed by the  growth in demand upon our water sources, Mr O'Connor says, and cites mass  plantation of vine grapes as a prime example.

Individual  blocks are more efficient but this is more than offset by a greater demand for  water to be used for irrigation.

Naturally we look in the confines of our  existing environment for our future, but we need to start looking outside the  square.

Mr O'Connor  is adamant that most government policy is aimed at treating symptoms rather  than underlying causes, especially in water allocation, and he argues that  communities are confined to search for answers only within the environments  they know.

As a  community, we need to look beyond industries that have been typically bread and  butter to this region. We need to alternatives that aren't water dependant, says Mr O'Connor.

He also  suggests that Mildura could fulfill its geographical potential and prosper more  by using the existing transport hub between Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, to  foster light and heavy industry in the region.

Mr O'Connor,  who recently returned from 12 week sabbatical at Portland State University in  the U.S, believes the process will be a 20 year transformation and argues that  state and federal help will be needed.

For new industry to emerge, there will need  to be incentives and initiatives for people who to agree to re-locate to  certain areas, and tax and rate exceptions for the life of the business, he  says.

We need to  think through the social ramifications of the changes, however I believe these  will be offset by new opportunities that could be created.

Media Enquiries:

To interview Larry  O'Connor contact:

Mikhaela Delahunty
9479 5353