One city is not on my radar: Baird

NSW Premier Mike Baird was given a tour of the Seeley International plant yesterday.
NSW Premier Mike Baird was given a tour of the Seeley International plant yesterday.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has sidestepped re-visiting the merger of Albury and Wodonga into one city as a way of eliminating the frustrations experienced by local businesses on both sides of the Border.

Mr Baird fielded questions from business owners about issues concerning them at a breakfast arranged by the Albury Northside chamber of commerce at Cafe Borellas yesterday.

He said the recently installed Cross-Border Commissioner — former military officer James McTavish — had to have a larger presence in the area, but wasn’t prepared to re-ignite the discussion about One City.

Labor premiers Bob Carr and Steve Bracks floated the One City concept more than a decade ago and recent documents showed a merger of Albury and Wodonga councils would have saved the region up to $80 million had it been introduced.

“It is not for me to dictate,” Mr Baird said.

“Other premiers might have (made statements on One City), but from my point of view it is a local issue.

“Albury has a lot to be proud of and I am here to support any way I can.

“It was great to listen to local mayors last night across a range of issues, but (One City) wasn’t raised by them.”

Shed Boss owner Andrea Grimmond and Geofabrics representative Howard Yen both raised concerns with doing business on the Border and the impact to date of the cross-border commissioner.

Mr Baird conceded the role had so far fallen short of expectations.

“We need to take the criticism on the chin,” he said.

“The new commissioner has an oppportunity to grasp these issues and connect into the local community.

“I want him to be visible and talking to businesses.”

Mr Baird was also quizzed by former Corowa mayor Gary Poidevin about the support the government was providing to entice Sydneysiders to relocate themselves and their businesses to regional areas including southern NSW.

“Out in the country we are ready to take on businesses,” Mr Poidevin said.

“I think there should be larger incentives.

“The Victorian Government has got a lot of incentives and businesses have opted to establish on the Victorian side.

“There are a lot of towns in the country who could take these businesses on.”

The cross-border commissioner role was established in 2012 to support businesses, organisations and residents in border communities.

“You can understand the frustrations,” Mr Baird said.

“You’ve got two sets of regulations and one border.

“NSW wants to be the state for business and our job as government is to make it easier.”

Albury Wodonga Health was established after the One City concept was launched and the NSW Government is looking into rationalisation of councils within the state.