Don’t bypass us: Albury and Wodonga mayors team up for high-speed rail bid

TEAMWORK: Albury mayor Kevin Mack and Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie also came together last week to promote the Border Bash cricket match.
TEAMWORK: Albury mayor Kevin Mack and Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie also came together last week to promote the Border Bash cricket match.

A high-speed rail network which bypasses the Border would be “unfair”, Albury and Wodonga’s mayors have warned.

Kevin Mack and Anna Speedie have argued the region is worthy of investment, making a joint submission to the federal inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.

“Allowing nationally critical infrastructure, such as high-speed rail, to deliberately skirt around these vibrant regional communities, with a view to creating new commuting hubs from productive farming land, would be folly,” the submission stated.

“It is economically irresponsible and profoundly unfair to regional communities to allow duplication of existing infrastructure by creating adjacent regional ‘commuter cities’.

“In fact, building such regional ‘commuter cities’ outside of existing capital cities merely increases urban sprawl while maintaining jobs and economic benefits in capital cities.”

A bill from Labor Senator Don Farrell, to plan and develop high-speed rail on Australia’s east coast, was introduced to the Parliament last week.

The mayors also used their submission to suggest introducing grants or tax cuts to encourage more small businesses to move to the Border, arguing that even small investments could have long-term benefits.

“Businesses seeking to expand could be assisted and incentivised to move to a regional zone, resulting in freeing up and possible rezoning of valuable metropolitan land,” they said.

“This is not about retaining the jobs in capital cities and shifting the population to commuter towns – it is about shifting the jobs to regional centres, along with the people.”

Crs Mack and Speedie encouraged the government to recognise Albury-Wodonga as one of the country’s “regional capital cities”, which were critical to dealing with a widespread population.

“These major regional cities provide critical health, professional services, shopping, education, recreational, entertainment and cultural services for smaller surrounding communities, for which they would otherwise have to travel to capital cities to obtain,” the submission stated.

The inquiry – set up to examine city planning, and develop new and existing regional centres – was still accepting submissions through its website at www.aph.gov.au/itc.