AS the region with the highest population of residents aged over 55 in Australia, the Mid North Coast's infrastructure needs are very specific. And now, a new report, written by Dr Karen McFadyen on behalf of Southern Cross University, has looked into the current and project- ed infrastructure needs for the region. It identified two major areas of concern for our region ? lack of telecommunications and transport infrastructure. "The Mid North Coast population is increasing at a rapid rate and has a large visitor population," Dr McFadyen said. "The region's population is also ageing and this trend is exacerbat- ed by in-migration of sea changers, an out-migration of 20 to 39-year- olds, and the resultant low fertility rate. "This has a dual effect. First, it means we need more social and community services ? particularly health services and aged services ? as well as public transport, foot- paths, cycleways, and better rail and air infrastructure. "But it also has a lot of econom- ic effects. Having an older popula- tion means we have a lower work- force participation rate because there are fewer people of working age." Dr McFadyen added an older population reduced council's ability to raise funds, as only 50 per cent of pensioner rebates were refunded by the State Government. What the region needs, according to the report, is to promote business de- velopment, which and depends on im- proved telecommunications infrastruc- ture, such as high quality broadband, and better transport. "Telecommunications mainly helps in economic growth by promoting inno- vation, exportation and productivity ef- ficiency," she said. "Transport also makes business more efficient and increases access to markets." She presented her findings to the Mid North Coast Regional Development Board last week, which will use the report for funding application purposes. "The Mid North Coast is competing for Federal and State government fund- ing, so reports like this are invaluable in enabling us to formulate the argu- ments," acting chair of the Mid North Coast Regional Development Board Mark Livermore said.