Wagga’s economy is “booming”, according the City Council’s latest ‘economic snapshot’, which highlighted the contribution of major projects and growth industries.
Wagga’s overall Gross Regional Product was $3.7 billion in the year ending June 2017, representing an increase of $100 million compared to the previous financial year.
The 2018 report recorded the biggest growth in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries of 24.4 per cent, healthcare and social assistance, at 11.7 per cent and manufacturing at 9.3 per cent.
The figures were collected prior to the current agricultural conditions that have delivered record lamb prices but left the entire region classified as ‘drought affected’.
Council city strategy manager Tristan Kell said Wagga, as a regional city, was able to offer “the best of both worlds” to potential residents, investors and businesses.
“We are seeing a significant amount of public and private investment, which will only further enhance economic and population growth; and support other sectors such as retail, services and construction,” he said.
The snapshot recorded “reasonable unemployment rates and labour force growth due to diversity of the economy” in Wagga, with ‘health care and social’ employing the most people followed by retail, administration and education.
Committee4Wagga chief executive Alan Johnston said he agreed with the snapshot’s main points.
“I think it’s a fair reflection; the local economy is reasonably strong,” he said
“Under the state government’s 20-year plan for regional NSW, there is an expectation that Wagga is going to experience significant growth.”
The snapshot was less optimistic than the NSW government’s new 20-year plan, which projected 100,000 residents in Wagga by 2038.
Wagga City Council’s snapshot projected just under 81,000 residents by the year 2036.
Mr Johnston said the council was right to base its future plans on the best data it had access to.
“The council have got to go with what they are currently aware of and that’s fair and reasonable,” he said.
Mr Johnston said long-term plans for significant infrastructure projects that were now coming to fruition would underpin Wagga’s growth in the near future, such as the Bomen Industrial Zone.
“It would be fantastic if that level of connectivity could be expanded to other areas inside Wagga and make them more attractive to new businesses that are not of a heavy industrial nature,” he said.
The council’s snapshot did acknowledge that Wagga’s unemployment rate, at 5.7 per cent, was higher than the regional NSW average but did not list the youth unemployment rate that remains substantially higher than two years ago.
Mr Johnston said larger projects would hopefully create businesses that needed more entry-level workers and high-school leavers.
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