A hotter Border gets more visits

THE Border is getting hotter, fewer people are moving here but tourists are flocking to the region in unprecedented numbers.

These are the key findings of a federal government report, State of Australian Cities 2012.

The study, updated off the release of last year’s census data, recognises Albury-Wodonga as one city — the 18th largest in the country with more than 100,000 residents.

But it said in the past decade population growth was just 0.8 per cent per annum, almost half the national growth rate of 1.5 per cent.

It also said Albury- Wodonga, like most inland cities, recorded larger increases in average temperature and decreases in rainfall.

The Border was one of five major cities to experience an average rainfall reduction of 20 per cent or more in the past 60 years.

Wodonga mayor Mark Byatt disputed the growth rates but welcomed Albury-Wodonga breaking into the major city grouping.

“Our numbers show Wodonga growing at 2 per cent a year for the past three years and forecast to do so into the future,” he said.

“Albury too has been enjoying similar growth.

“I think what this shows is that the Border is on the federal government’s radar — the 18th largest city in Australia, located in the middle of a major road and rail corridor.

“It is a platform to gain further investment in the region, investment that we are already seeing in the cancer centre and other projects on both sides of the Border.”

Albury mayor Alice Glachan said the two cities must work as one and take the region with them.

“Yes we are the 18th largest city but we are much more than that,” she said.

“Albury-Wodonga is not just Albury, it is not just Wodonga — it is a catchment of 300,000 people up and down the river, on both sides of the Border.

“I think the federal government now recognises that and investments like the cancer centre made people take notice.”

The report also showed domestic tourists were driving a mini-boom, up 30 per cent in four years, while international tourism has nearly doubled from 177,000 nights in 2008 to 316,000 this year.

Wodonga Council’s community relations manager Sue Beattie said the financial crisis led to more people travelling within Australia. She said the Bonegilla migrant centre and the high country were big drawcards for international tourists.

“Across our two Wodonga visitor information centres, we have noticed an increase in the number of international visitors who come to enjoy the region’s many attributes, particularly from European countries,” she said.

“Many of these come to our centres specifically seeking information about Bonegilla due to family links with it, the high country and what there is to see and do within a day’s drive.

“We continue to work had at encouraging all our visitors to stay longer and actively promote our region as a great place to visit.”