Wagga Wagga and Tamworth have been pinpointed as the two big regional growth centres in NSW, with a push to turn them into 100,000 population centres.
The ambitious plan means there will be new real estate openings in the near future and record investment in new business opportunities. Wagga is selling itself as an education, health and agribusiness centre, while Tamworth is an important freight, food processing, services and possible international airfreight centre.
Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro supports the 100,000 plus population targets. At the moment Wagga sits at about 64,000 people, while Tamworth has 41,000 people. Agriculture will remain one of the big economic drivers of both centres.
Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey said his city was well placed to lift its population and its health sector was growing by the day, so much so, Canberrans came to Wagga instead of Sydney for specialist treatment such as for cancer care.
Wagga Base Hospital was in the middle of a $167 million upgrade, the single biggest NSW Government investment in regional health. The upgrade includes a new seven storey acute hospital building and rehab centre.
On the agricultural side, the new $3m upgrade to Wagga saleyards was supporting a turnover of $400 million a year. A $10m upgrade to Eunony Bridge will help move heavier vehicles through to the Bomen Industrial park, vastly reducing truck turnaround times and truck movements in town. That will be major support for Wagga’s expanding abattoir and paper products industry.
Some of the unique investments in Wagga included Robe, (Riverina Oils and Bio Energy), an Indian-based company that was a huge player in the canola industry, buying up to half the state’s canola crop. The canola has been turned into an amazing vegetable oil product in India, marketed as Wagga Wagga, available through 16,000 outlets with a market to more than 40 million people in India. Wagga was also busy getting an intermodal freight hub completed to link in with the inland rail project.
Mr Conkey said new residential development in Wagga as it expanded would be in the northern area close to Charles Sturt University, which was also an important and growing part of Wagga’s economy. Wagga now had direct daily flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Mr Barilaro said both Tamworth and Wagga Wagga had been pinpointed as major growth centres and there was no reason they could not achieve 100,000 populations. “We are of the opinion that if you build it, people will come, and that is what we are doing in these two places,” Mr Barilaro told The Land.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the agricultural sector was pushing Tamworth’s economic future, and its growth was “even better than Wagga’s”. “Our growth has been far stronger than the state average,” Mr Murray said. New residential releases would be coming on stream by this Christmas, with 1600 housing lots. “We have large areas available for residential growth,” Mr Murray said. Also the building of the Arcadia industrial estate would create about 5000 jobs. “We have consistent growth and this will only increase,” he said