The gap between city and country is widening, according to a report that shows most of the Riverina was in recession between 2012 and 2014.
Regional economics expert Terry Rawnsley from SGS Economics said Sydney’s economy had grown by 2.2 per cent on average between 2012 and 2015, while regional areas had shrunk by 0.3 per cent.
In the Riverina, there was negative economic growth between 2012 and 2014, which only started to turn around in 2015. At the same time, more than 2500 people moved into the region.
During a visit to Wagga on Wednesday, NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Michael Daley said there was a growing concern among regional people that they had missed out on economic prosperity.
“The report says, on average, big cities experienced economic growth of 2.5 to 3 per cent but regions have not experienced anything like that,” Mr Daley said.
“The Riverina area (had) close to 3 per cent economic contraction in the past three years, (meaning) towns were in actual recession while the cities were going gangbusters.”
However, Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire said while some regional areas had suffered from drought, statistics showed Wagga was quite healthy.
“Population growth is at 1.4 per cent, unemployment is at 3.06 per cent while the national average is about 5 per cent, we’ve got projected economic growth of 1.2 per cent and very good housing approvals compared to this time last year,” Mr Maguire said.
“Traditionally regional areas lag behind the cities, but we’re putting in the infrastructure people demand, which is important to those looking to the area for employment and lifestyle.”
Parts of Sydney, like the Ryde-Macquarie Park business hub, grew by 5.8 per cent in the 2014-15 financial year, which could point to another growth opportunity for Wagga.
Wagga academic Graham White said if a dedicated technology precinct was built at Charles Sturt University’s south Wagga campus it could attract major technology players to the city.
“We’d have massive internet capability, cheaper real estate, better quality of living, regular flights, what more do they want?” Mr White said.
“We can bring the brightest people here but we need the vision from the community to do it. People go to where the jobs are – build it and they will come.”