By the end of this week, a draft master plan for Moree's Special Activation Precinct (SAP) will be well underway, with a clear direction for how Moree Plains Shire can take full advantage of the economic opportunities that the Inland Rail will bring.
Dozens of experts have come together in Moree this week for the 'Enquiry by Design' workshop, which will be used to help shape the draft master plan for the Moree SAP.
Moree is one of five Special Activation Precincts in the state, chosen by the NSW government to become a thriving business hub.
Precincts aim to create jobs, attract businesses and investors, support local industries and fuel economic development, as part of the government's plan to ensure regional NSW is well placed to grow and meet future economic needs across a range of industries.
Moree was chosen because of the Inland Rail, which is set to begin construction by the end of this year.
"And so we're looking at how we can build from that, in terms of creating more economic opportunities for this region," Department of Planning, Industry and Environment executive director Anthea Sargeant said.
"The Moree region has a very proud agricultural history, and so what we're looking at is trying to match that agricultural opportunity with the new freight and logistics opportunity and what that could become.
"There'll be opportunities for new businesses to come to Moree to do something in relation to agricultural production, whether it's building on what's already here in terms of grain and cotton and creating some sort of compatible businesses, whether it's processing or materials, anything that can value add."
The second element of the SAP is to streamline the planning process, making it easier for businesses to set up in Moree.
Through the creation of a master plan, businesses have the potential to come in and set up through a compliant development pathway, rather than having to go through the lengthy and complex DA process.
Ms Sargeant said if a business complies with the master plan and has approval on its delivery plan, they will will be able to get approval to start construction within 30 days.
"We also provide this concierge service to help businesses, to ensure they can set up and that they meet the requirements of the master plan," she said.
"That sort of service doesn't exist at the moment, anywhere across NSW, so that's what makes the Special Activation Precincts unique.
"We are simplifying the planning process, we're providing that business concierge service to attract businesses here and the third element is around the investment in infrastructure."
Ms Sargeant said there is "money on the table" to help set up the infrastructure needed to service the precinct and the businesses that are coming, such as roads, water or sewer infrastructure, which will be determined by the business case that is currently being developed in conjunction with the master plan.
Over four days of workshops - from Tuesday, November 17 to Friday, November 20 - a range of technical consultants (including town planners, urban designers, engineers, and scientists) have joined Moree Plains Shire Council representatives and representatives from a number of key government agencies, including the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Department of Regional NSW, Transport for NSW, Environment Protection Authority and the Regional Growth NSW Development Corporation, to develop the master plan.
"We've been working on this Special Activation Precinct for Moree for about six months now and we've commissioned a number of different technical consultants to do studies," Ms Sargeant said.
"We're doing environmental studies, infrastructure studies, transport studies, economic studies. And all of those experts, as well as a number of the key government agencies are here.
"So you bring all these people into a workshop scenario and then we start to develop what the plan is going to look like."
By the end of the workshop on Friday, the draft plan will be 80 to 90 per cent complete.
There'll still be a lot of technical work to finish off after the workshop, but Ms Sargeant said the draft master plan should be ready for public exhibition in March/April next year.
After the exhibition phase, the master plan will be finalised, which could take between four to six months.
However, the SAP is a 40-year plan, so Ms Sargeant said it's not all going to happen on day one.
"It's not all going to happen in the first 10 years," she said.
"We're trying to plan for what is a little bit an unknown."
During their time in Moree, the team has also been undertaking community consultation, through some pop-up sessions at Balo Square, as well as an information session with landowners on Thursday evening and one with stakeholders from the Aboriginal community on Friday.
"We're really trying to get as much feedback throughout the process as we can," Ms Sargeant said.
"We know how important that feedback is from the community in shaping what becomes the final plan."
Another key part of Moree's SAP is an Aboriginal social piece of work around the Indigenous First Nations' connection to country.
A specialised consultant has been engaged to guide the team through that process, while an engineer will also be looking at Aboriginal design principles that can be incorporated into the infrastructure.
"What ultimately we want to try and achieve is to create opportunities for the Aboriginal people of Moree through job opportunities predominantly within the precinct," Ms Sargeant said.
"So how can we encourage some of the educational facilities to set up programs to skill not just Aboriginal people but a lot of the locals to be able to get good job opportunities through the development of this precinct."
The planning team will return to Moree in February for more community consultations before the draft master plan is released.