Excerpt from the Gunnedah Times’ Annual Review editorial, published in December 2021:

This publication is the first Gunnedah Times Annual Review.

The Review, themed ‘Progress and Prospects’ looks back at the year through the pages of the Gunnedah Times, a snapshot of Gunnedah community, our dynamic businesses and organisations as they were in 2021.

‘Unprecedented’ is a word which has been well used over the past year.

The COVID pandemic is unprecedented in our modern history and its impacts on our communities have been profound.

Nobody knows what the future will hold although the pandemic appears to be waning thanks to government and community responses and the fantastic achievements of medical science.

In Australia, and particularly regional Australia, we have weathered the storm better than most.

While unknowns lie ahead, health authorities are increasingly confident that the onslaught of COVID- 19 has been dramatically slowed and life can return to what will be the ‘new normal.’

Despite what future COVID variants may throw at us, overall, we can look forward with much greater confidence and certainty than last year in the midst of the pandemic.

Back in 2020 rain brought relief from the years of drought and science was making inroads into the pandemic and when vaccines  became available in 2021 people lined up for their shot and the proven protection it afforded them. 

The Gunnedah district community is now well placed in terms of COVID protection, as measured by the number of people vaccinated, and with the district economy primed after a great agricultural season following substantial rains.

Flooding brought business disruption for several days and for many farmers the rain came at  a disappointing and damaging wrong time as they prepared for harvest. The floods were a blow, impacting heavily on many crops.

But agricultural prospects look good.

Locally, industry and commerce is gathering momentum.

Consolidation and new business developments are on the agenda for several enterprises.

From  the global perspective, critical moves towards combating climate change are underway. 

Those moves will never be fast enough or comprehensive enough for many in the community, but the reality is that the transition to a renewable energy economy is going to take significant time.

That journey is well underway, but reality dictates that our traditional energy sources will be vital for many years yet.

Australia has committed to a ‘zero emissions’ policy by 2050 but has taken a reasoned and pragmatic approach to achievement of that goal. 

At the beginning of last year, the Prime Minister warned the nation that 2020  was one which would long live in the memory of most Australians.

The confluence of a long and damaging drought, the worst bushfire season ever recorded in Australia during the 2019-20 summer the arrival of COVID, was to create a legacy of misery, fear, massive unemployment and economic hardship.

That confluence finally came to an end in 2021.

Life began to return to ‘normality’ and we may hope, prosperity, in 2022 and beyond.

The rebuilding of hope and confidence has, in no small measure, been assisted by the much kinder seasonal conditions.

However, as the COVID threat has evidently eased and we rebuild our economy and social structures – strengthened, no doubt, by the knowledge that Australians have pulled together as a nation to weather the crisis in a world where the intra-national COVID threat has not always been handled well – newer challenges have emerged. 

The most obvious of these is the belligerent approach by China to  trading relations with Australia over China’s list of 14 so-called ‘grievances’.

China has embarked on a calculated program of intimidation to force compliance with its agenda.

In response, Australian export industries have sought and found new markets.

However, China’s coercion no doubt will find new manifestations in the future.

The Australian government has recognised this, belatedly, some would argue, and is putting in place arrangements for our national security.

The ‘Quad’ linkage of Australia, Japan, India and the US is a mechanism to underwrite our security as is the  decision to join a new grouping – AUKUS – Australia, UK and the US, and the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines to boost our defence in the longer term.

It is evident that 2022 and beyond will produce an Australia somewhat different from what we may have previously comfortably imagined.

Meanwhile, our vital small businesses have fought through the COVID impacts and emerged looking to the future, and new businesses are in the pipeline.

Development of major new enterprises is underway which underlines the fact that Gunnedah Shire is recognised as a leader with a future as a major regional centre.

A new Gunnedah Shire Council has been elected carrying the community’s hopes and expectations that the district’s potential in continuing improved wellbeing  and material progress will be realised

For this newspaper, The Gunnedah Times, we are pleased to have managed to continue to serve the towns and districts of our shire during our first year year thanks to the support from advertisers, readers and contributors and, of course, from our dedicated staff.

We are looking forward with great optimism to 2022!

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