I have downloaded the federal government’s 168-page Regions at the Ready report, headlined on the front page of last Monday’s DA. I will analyse it in a later column. I noted that the nearest public hearing was held in Wodonga, yet two hearings were held in Canberra!
Until 1966, I was a city boy. The “country service” regulation saved me from a crowded city existence.
Would I have voluntarily taken that giant step to a better life had I not been transferred?
My wife Cheryl was a city girl. She moved to accept a scholarship to the then-new Goulburn Teachers’ College.
We met, were married, and moved into our new Goulburn home.
Once we had lived in the country, we weren’t going to return! We have been a “country” family ever since. Later, we chose Wagga. Our children have enjoyed opportunities they could never have experienced in a suburban setting.
In contrast, a year or so before I met Cheryl, I tried to convince my city girlfriend to move to Goulburn, where I was building my new home. We had met at Sydney Teachers’ College some years earlier.
She was then teaching at a school in inner Sydney. She hated the commuting – a bus to the wharf from her Northern Beaches home, a ferry ride, a bus from Circular Quay – three hours of her day was spent on public transport, and more if there was fog on the harbour!
I explained that I often rode my bike to school, a five-minute ride. She mentioned the beach. I mentioned the 15 hours she wasted each week on public transport, plus fares. We could be to Batemans Bay in two hours, I added reassuringly. My journey on a Friday night from Goulburn to her place took less than three hours.
Is her problem typical of Sydneysiders today? She wouldn’t even visit Goulburn to see for herself! During the Whitlam years when “decentralisation” was a buzzword, whole trainloads of workers from Sydney factories were brought to Goulburn for a guest weekend. I remember seeing the “3M train” arrive in Goulburn, to a welcome speech by the mayor. But a weekend in a new city doesn’t tell the whole story.
In my single years, I loved Goulburn because of things I did – sport, hiking in national parks, barbecue opportunities at the doorstep.
We love Wagga for its educational, sporting and cultural opportunities, plus it is a great place for children.
Any weekend outing is mere minutes of town driving and then open roads.
Within two hours there’s snow, water skiing, bushwalking, camping, other places to visit. And no time wasted getting to work.
Yes, Wagga needs more jobs. “The committee recommends that every federal government agency should assess the possibility for relocation whenever appropriate …” the report says, hence the 23 (negative?) submissions from Canberra?
Wagga has wonderful new affordable housing areas, first-class facilities in some faculties at CSU, a new hospital.
But what do visitors see from the Sturt Highway?
Wagga’s house prices have increased by either 3.06 per cent, or 4.0 per cent, depending on which report you read.
The Central West has increased 5.9 per cent, Orana 5.5 per cent. People buy when their investment will grow.
A public hearing for Regions at the Ready was held in Orange, but not Wagga. Are we missing this growth opportunity?