Just a month ago the column sang the praises of Broken Hill City Council for championing tourism as a way of stabilising the city's future some two decades ago when mining, the city's bread and butter for more than a century declined, and with it the population.
There are now better signs for Broken Hill on the mining front, too, for as recently as April last year Carpentaria Resources Limited announced a $1.7 billion project to develop its magnetite mine and supporting infrastructure that is expected to create up to 1700 jobs.
So what's all that got to do with Wagga and tourism you might well ask.
Last week Wagga City Council announced that a project of significantly less value called Entwine took a major step forward (aided by a $740,000 grant from NSW Government's Regional Growth, Environment and Tourism Fund) to give the Botanic Gardens and Museum of the Riverina, the latter currently under redevelopment, its biggest rejuvenation. Council contributed the remaining approximately $160,000.
Entwine is designed to connect the museum with the Botanic Gardens by a new pathway but, overall, to strengthen the whole area of attractions and facilities.
Significantly, though, many see the value of tourism for regional inland Australia as the way to go, economically and viably at a time when economic experts are telling politicians to spend up and get things moving in this nation. The council deserves credit for recognising the Botanic Gardens, as one of the city's greatest assets as its director of Community Services, Janice Summerhayes, described the complex, along with many citizens. Let's hope it will not be the last major community asset to be developed.
Just to jog the memory of our civic fathers, it's not so long ago that cricket coach, Warren Smith, who encouraged council to keep the spirit of the city of good sports alive and well by naming the three Bolton Park ovals after Geoff Lawson, Michael Slater and Mark Taylor, also suggested cable cars from Bolton Park to Willans Hill summit and into the Botanic Gardens/museum sites, including the Sports Hall of Fame.
The council deserves credit for recognising the Botanic Gardens, as one of the city's greatest assets
There's been some flashes of brilliance emanating from council in recent times and the work done at Wagga Beach and nearby riverside areas has been a gentle but positive reminder of greater things to come and relatively quickly needed, too, by readers who have advocated for decades now that we have seriously underplayed the worth of the Murrumbidgee River and Lake Albert to community and tourism development growth and improvement. One of the community's tragedies was the failure to act quickly and with any sort of teamwork to back former MP Daryl Maguire's suggestion for a weir across the Murrumbidgee to sustain boating (including houseboats), aquatic activities and walkways - not to mention a consistent water supply to Lake Albert.
On a much broader aspect regional Australia, which itself might well need financial stimulation, should with its regional local government councils and their MPs be already planning on ways to bolster how to attract the tourist numbers and build something genuinely substantial, as did Broken Hill.
Improving regional rail networks instead of spending mints of money on any more metropolitan rail and road networks would be a start. A note from a column reader fed-up with the federal government's paralysis in dealing with the nation's water issues for more than decade now has just hit the in tray as I write: "Nothing changes. My view is to get on with building infrastructure - dams, housing for the poorer, major highways and roads. Cough up the dollars and get the economy going. Do we really need a surplus?" Hear! Hear!
This is something that former Treasury boss, Ken Henry, and current Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe, have been trying to get the government to listen to and act upon although it's doubtful if the PM, Scott Morrison, has been in the country long enough to take on board any advice. At a function in Canberra on Tuesday night this week, organised by one of the ALP's brightest sparks, Andrew Leigh, Henry warned the Government's deliberate ignorance was risking the nation's social and economic failure. Here's Henry's keynote paragraph: "Poor-quality infrastructure has led to congested major cities unable to deal with the fastest population growth in the developed world and wide scale cases of environmental degradation, including the unsustainable and environmentally damaging water usage in the Murray-Darling basin."