A new study has shown Australians still believe regional centres are “second rate” places to live.
The federal government’s Regions at the Ready report followed a 12-month inquiry into regional development in a bid to decentralise Australia’s population from the capital cities.
Alan Johnston, who took over as CEO of Committee 4 Wagga last month, said that perception could not be further from the truth.
“When it gets to owning your own home, having a manageable mortgage, then your regional centres like Wagga really do come into their own,” Mr Johnston said.
“Traveling to work will take you five minutes and won’t cost you as much money, and it's a better lifestyle, if you like – I think people just have to realise NSW doesn't end at the Blue Mountains.”
With 40 per cent of Australians now living in either Sydney or Melbourne, the decentralisation report found just that, arguing people are growing tired of constant congestion and feeling distressed at the ever-increasing cost of living.
“The regions of Australia have never been in a better position to take advantage of an Australian population that is looking away from our capital cities,” decentralisation committee chairman Damian Drum said.
“To live five to ten minutes from work, to own your own home, to have space for children to grow and play – these are the benefits our regions have over our capitals.”
However, in order for Wagga to take advantage of that cultural shift, Mr Johnston said he believed the city’s number one priority needed to be attracting more industry.
“The key to getting more people out here is to have jobs that people can move into – it's a little bit like the chicken and the egg – if you can attract businesses to regional centres, you can also attract people,” he said.
“We need to keep working on that industry side of things to get more jobs out here so people will be happy to leave the city and get rid of that ridiculous mortgage.”
Just last week, Wagga City Council mayor Greg Conkey attended the Australian Local Government Association conference in Canberra.
Cr Conkey said the issue of growing Australia’s regional centres like Wagga sat at the top of the agenda.
“They came up with a checklist for successful regional and rural centres – things like affordable housing, health facilities, defence force facilities, a daily newspaper, an indoor sporting centre,” Cr Conkey said.
“Other things on the list were a cafe culture, outstanding business awards, vocational training, local entrepreneurs, a private school, a hospital, a university, an airport.”
Cr Conkey said this checklist pointed to nothing but an incredibly promising future for the city.
“This is a checklist for successful centres that will grow and expand, and we had them all in spades,” he said.
“We’re particularly well-placed to grow this city to 100,000 plus, and we’re working with the government to see how we can make that happen.”