Editorial: Wagga City Council's plan will capitalise on appetite for eating out

AUSTRALIANS love eating out.

Given a choice between cooking at home and dining at a pub, club or restaurant, increasingly people are choosing the latter.

In fact, a report from Intermedia released this year revealed the average Australian ate out two or three times a times a week.

Such is the appetite for letting the professionals sate our hunger, Australians spent a hefty $45 billion last year eating away from home.

The growth in this industry is not just confined to the cosmopolitan metropolises of our capital cities, or to the tourist hotspots dotted along our vast coastline.

Regional centres such as Wagga are getting scrambling to get a slice of this action, too.

This is why the council’s plan to transform Fitzmaurice Street into a “distinctive retail, restaurant and cafe precinct” has so much merit.

The proposal, contained in a recently released draft strategy, aims to capitalise on the growing desire for people of all ages to dine out among friends and family.

Using the heritage qualities of Fitzmaurice, Gurwood and Trail streets as a backdrop, the plan aims to create a vibrant food and beverage hub.

The aforementioned Intermedia report estimates this country is home to about 82,000 eateries, including 22,000 restaurants and 21,000 cafes.

Most of these are small family-run businesses that create crucial employment opportunities, particularly for younger people.

Wagga, like any regional city, faces the challenge of keeping its youth from the clutches of the bright lights of our major cities.

Creating a precinct that can not only satisfy them socially but provide jobs must be a good thing.

However, one of the barriers to this plan being a success, as pointed out by salon owner Leanne Carroll, is parking.

With a paucity of reliable and convenient public transport options compared to bigger centres, the ability to park a car within walking distance will be crucial.

Public safety is also a consideration. The recent addition of CCTV cameras in the CBD is an important deterrent to anti-social behaviour, but upgrades to streetlighting, footpaths and roads will be necessary.

Get all these things right and Wagga will have a winner on its hands.