The Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Governments and Albury City and City of Wodonga councils have formally committed to developing an Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the three levels of Government have signed a Statement of Intent setting out a shared vision and priorities for the initiative.
“This is a significant step forward in delivering this landmark agreement for the Albury-Wodonga region, setting out our collective vision and commitment to the region and the people who live and work there,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
Assistant Minister for Territories and Regional Development Nola Marino said the Regional Deal will seek to ensure the region prospers over the next decade by supporting population growth and economic development, while also ensuring it remains a nationally significant, liveable and prosperous region.
“The Deal will be the first cross-border Deal in Australia, providing an opportunity to harmonise some of the regulatory barriers the region faces and to drive local growth and productivity,” Assistant Minister Marino said.
“We recognise the current challenging circumstances for Albury Wodonga as an important border town. The evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation and the subsequent border closures are directly affecting the region and all towns along the Victorian border. While these measures are necessary to ensure the health and safety of our community, we recognise the social and economic hardship they place on communities. So our collective commitment to the Albury Wodonga Regional Deal has never been more important than it is right now and signing the Statement of Intent is a vital step forward.”
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the Deal reflected the significant opportunities for the region, with several broad focus areas outlined in the Statement of Intent.
“All Governments have agreed to focus on economic development, cross-border harmonisation, productivity enhancing infrastructure and connectivity improvements, enhancing liveability, leveraging the region’s quality health and education facilities, as well as supporting the Indigenous community as key pillars of the future Deal,” Mr Barilaro said.
Victoria Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes said these areas of focus will shape the business and community consultation about the commitments to be included in the Regional Deal.
“Locals should be consulted, as they know what will work best to meet community needs – they will continue to be critical to a Deal of which the region owns and can be proud,” Ms Symes said.
Mayor of Albury City Kevin Mack said community consultations will begin shortly to understand the priorities, opportunities and challenges that exist in the region.
“It is important we work hand-in-hand with the local community at every step to ensure the Deal will help secure the future prosperity and liveability of the region,” Cr Mack said.
City of Wodonga Mayor Anna Speedie said all levels of Government remained committed to progressing a Regional Deal in the face of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Business and community consultation will provide an opportunity to better understand and consider how the Deal can also play a role in addressing community priorities following the impacts of the 2019-20 bushfire season and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cr Speedie said.
Minister for the Environment and Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said what makes this agreement unique also makes it potentially the most exciting of Australia’s Regional Deals so far.
“With five different signatures, this is a real signal of cooperation from each level of Government that we want to help local businesses and our communities to thrive. This cross border region is always at its best when we are able to work together,” Ms Ley said.
Wodonga-based Nationals’ Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said she was extremely pleased to announce the Regional Deal for Albury-Wodonga in March 2019.
“Albury-Wodonga is strategically located and connected to other parts of our nation and the globe, the region is showing strong growth projections and we’re ready, willing and able to back that growth and development. The twin cities are an ideal option for those city dwellers eager to embrace the great community, family, work and lifestyle opportunities regions like Albury-Wodonga continue to offer,” Ms McKenzie Said.
Federal Liberal representative for Indi, Senator Jane Hume said this Deal unites and strengthens the border community’s voice.
“The potential this deal brings to the local area is unrivaled, never before have all levels of Government across State lines agreed to work together like this to build and strengthen a community,” Ms Hume said.
To support the development of the Deal, the Australian Government has provided an initial investment of $3.2 million. This will fund the planning and analysis needed to develop the important local commitments that will form part of the Deal.
All levels of Government are committed to developing a Deal by mid-2021 that reflects local priorities and delivers on the community’s aspirations for their region.