Committee 4 Wagga together with Wagga Wagga City Council and HIA Wagga Branch formed a partnership to host the 100,000 Population by 2038 Seminar in September. In attendance were  council representatives, Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr, Member for Riverina & Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, Mayor Greg Conkey, C4W & HIA Members, prominent business & community leaders as well as a strong representation from State & Federal Government agencies such as the Regional NSW Development Corporation, Department of Premier & Cabinet, Transport for NSW, Infrastructure NSW, Industry NSW,ARTC Kapooka, the Home Affairs Dept, along with Charles Sturt University, TAFE, Riverina Water, Regional Development Australia – Riverina, the NSW Business Chamber, Australian Rail Track Corporation and Rex Airlines plus the neighbouring Shire Councils of Junee & Coolamon.

Wagga Wagga 100,000 had its origins back in July 2018 when the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, released the State Governments 20Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW.  Amongst other expectations and directions for regional NSW, this vision identified Wagga Wagga as a Growth Centre with a population forecast of 100,000 people by 2038.

This growth target requires an acceleration of our current & historical population growth rate, bringing with it an abundance of challenges and opportunities for the State Government and the Wagga Wagga City Council, but also to the business community, community support services and the community at large. (Opportunities also exist for Wagga Wagga to attract more Chinese students to attend CSU.)

Garry White NSW Chief Planner opened the presentations speaking of embracing change, articulating your vision in your strategic plan – tell a story. James Bolton Director, Regional NSW for the Department of Planning Industry and Environment explained the benefits of the Special Activation Precinct pointing out the streamlined DA process. With the State Government having done the work upfront upon receiving a DA, provided it meets the prescribed requirements automatic approval will be received within thirty days.

Peter Thompson General Manager Wagga Wagga City Council briefed attendees that WWCC are actively out attracting new business, they are working on updating the strategic plans. Kay Hull is an advocate for promoting trades vocations, she sees the need for youth to have choices in furthering their education. Gerard Carroll explained that he believes the health sector is in good shape with some gaps in the specialist field. He feels attention needs to be paid to Acute Care (ED) and Aged Care services. Darren Nelson spoke of the need to address incentives to attract businesses to invest here in regional NSW vs Regional VIC where such incentives are already in place. Darren shared that the DA process remains an ongoing issue along with the ability to attract skilled workers and to have sufficient volume of work to retain certain skilled trades at this point in time.

Keynote speaker Bernard Salt AM, renowned demographer, gave a lively and informative presentation. Australia will remain a prosperous nation. According to Bernard Wagga Wagga already has the apparatus of a bigger city. We have a university and a TAFE, an airport, television stations and the military. All roads must lead back to Wagga Wagga to evolve further as the capital of the Riverina. Millennials are drawn to Wagga Wagga we must showcase this strength, be it by holding festivals of youth and energy.

The second session included a lively question and answer time with Bernard Salt and panellists Gary White, James Bolton, Peter Thompson, Professor Gerard Carrol, Kay Hull and Darren Nelson providing the audience opportunities to express their views on Wagga Wagga’s future.

Some of the points to come out of the discussion were incentives to attract more business to the area-this could include this tax rates, promotion of decentralisation by the State Government, concern over a perceived two-tiered DA system for Wagga Wagga could be problematic for the WWCC, water management and use, skilled workforce, aged and acute care.

Joe McGirr and Bernard Salt agree that we as a community will also need a single common vision.

C4W have conducted a survey to enable attendees to provide input that they may not have had the opportunity to contribute at the seminar and these findings will be collaborated with input received on the day.

Also, to come out of the seminar was the popular view a collective group of representatives and organisations be established to keep moving forward. With this in mind C4W, Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Wagga Wagga City Council administration along with the Member for Wagga have commenced dialogue on how such a collective can be established and be effective for the duration of the journey to a city of 100,000 people.

Michelle Ford