The NSW government's commitment to a regional deal for Albury-Wodonga is certainly welcome news for Border and North East residents.
It was a formality, of course, after Senator Bridget McKenzie announced the deal in March but what the development does is enable planning to begin for millions of dollars worth of infrastructure for our region over the next couple of decades - and beyond.
It's exciting to think about the opportunities this could open up and in many ways they're endless. But if we're to narrow our focus, health and education are two sectors of our community that impact everyone, whether you like it or not, so let's start there.
Albury Wodonga Health's current service plan expires in 2027 - that's just a tick over seven years away - and if you think that's a long time, it's not. For context, it took 10 years for Bendigo's $1 billion, 372-bed facility to open from the first day of planning so you could mount a case that we're already three years behind by comparison.
There are many decisions to be made, such as what services will our community need in 20 and 30 years' time and also, importantly, whether they'll be offered at separate hospitals in Albury and Wodonga or at a single "super site".
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In terms of education, there is plenty of scope to enhance the excellent work of our TAFE providers on both sides of the Border.
In much the same way the Border health services combined just over a decade ago, there is no reason why the NSW and Victorian TAFE sectors can't strike a deal to offer more courses locally to save, for example, a Jindera resident having to travel to Wagga to study hairdressing because it's not offered in Albury. If reducing the number of cross-Border issues is one of the goals of this deal, these are just a couple of areas which deserve immediate attention.
Another thing to keep an eye on in the next 12 months will be Albury and Wodonga mayors, Kevin Mack and Anna Speedie, who have been big advocates of bringing the towns together under the Two Cities One Community banner. Will they seek re-election next year to see these plans come to fruition? Watch this space.
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