The five questions asked of candidates
- What is your favourite thing about living in Wodonga?
- What does the council need to invest in to help the city recover from the COVID downturn?
- How effective do you think the Two Cities, One Community initiative has been?
- Should there be more mountain bike tracks developed on Wodonga's hills?
- What should be the top priority for funding from the regional deal?
(Answer 1) Wodonga is beautiful and peaceful, with just the right mix of facilities - shops, schools, sports facilities - to live well.
Our rivers, our hills.
It is the ideal place for a family to live - to raise children, have a career and a great lifestyle.
No more than 10 minutes to anywhere, or to be outside the city in nature.
(Answer 2) Council needs to make it easy for businesses.
Cut red tape, approve applications, get out of the way. Keep rates down, waive fees.
Council can't buy our way to recovery, it needs to support business investment and growth to create jobs.
Ratepayers can't afford to be paying for grand council projects.
(Answer 3) The idea is good, but not enough has been achieved yet.
There is plenty of potential for the two towns to work together.
We should be running combined investment in infrastructure and sporting facilities and combining council back-end operations to save money.
(Answer 4) The hills belong to all of us, and should be accessible by all.
I'm not opposed to mountain bike tracks in principle if done sensitively - bike clubs can be part of caring for the environment.
However, I don't support spending ratepayers money on new bike tracks now - we need to be careful with ratepayer money, and the Baranduda Fields black hole is going to swallow all available money for sports for a long time to come.
(Answer 5) So far the regional deal is just a thought bubble.
Happy to get federal and state money for new projects - it should focus on what we need to build our cross border community - a new regional hospital site, preferably in north east Wodonga, new facilities along the river, perhaps a new river crossing.
Solid infrastructure that builds for the future rather than fluffy projects that will be gone when the money runs out.
(Answer 1) I am really proud to have chosen Wodonga to be my home and I truly appreciate the opportunities that I have had as a member of this community.
I really love that Wodonga welcomes people from all walks of life, it is vibrant and rich in diversity.
(Answer 2) Wodonga needs clear strategic planning for areas including but not limited to community and health services, tourism, sport and recreation, and education.
As many city-dwellers consider relocating to the regions, we should invest in the livability of our community.
We should also create open community consultation channels at all levels to allow residents of Wodonga to interact with the council with an easy interface that will allow them to share their ideas and concerns so that council and residents of Wodonga can work as a team for the recovery of Wodonga from COVID.
(Answer 3) The Two Cities One Community initiative is relatively recent and challenging to judge especially in the context of this year's challenges of fires, COVID and border closure - but if anything these challenges have again demonstrated that we are one connected community.
I certainly support the initiative, and believe both Wodonga and Albury residents alike benefit from a shared approach to planning facilities that can benefit us all.
The recent regional natural environment strategy is an example of an early success, and if elected to council I will ensure that its actions are implemented.
(Answer 4) Mountain biking is a growing sport in Wodonga, and it's great that so many people, particularly young people, are keen to get outdoors and enjoy our local environment.
As the demand for mountain bike tracks increases it's important that this work is carefully planned and strategically located, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and undertaken in a way that minimises adverse impacts on native vegetation and fauna - for example well constructed trails that drain well so as not to erode soil.
(Answer 5) From a local government perspective, there is clear demand for a regional indoor aquatics facility that also includes hydrotherapy facilities.
I would also support regional deal initiatives that could strengthen our local health and education sectors.
(Answer 1) The little things - that we are big enough to have great facilities and services, but small enough to retain our community connection and friendly feel.
I love that people look each other in the eye and still say hello in the street.
I also like our network of walking tracks and pathways, and I love the people in our community plus our environment (both built and natural).
(Answer 2) Tourism and event attraction.
Things that bring people to Wodonga and that encourage them to stay, work and play.
We need to decide what it is that we can be truly great at, renowned for (world class at) and that attracts people to our city.
Also, now that metropolitan residents have realised you can function just as well in regional cities, we need a targeted campaign to attract them and their businesses to the Wodonga area.
(Answer 3) I think the initiative was gaining good traction and starting to develop some momentum, but the recent COVID pandemic and resulting border closures has set us back.
I firmly believe that we are one community so I think this initiative needs to be maintained.
We should be able to gather some important data and learn some valuable lessons from this current situation, and use that to further strengthen this partnership and lobby for additional funding, support and change.
(Answer 4) An emotional issue with strong opinions on either side.
I'm honestly on the fence but I was really concerned at how the debate developed last time.
My question is "do we need more tracks?".
If we do, what is the case for that and how can they be developed in harmony with the natural environment.
If we don't, why not and what would be the potential opportunity lost if any?
(Answer 5) A really complex question.
In the current environment I don't think that your average person is too focused on the regional deal or understands it.
If I had to pick one, based on its ability to impact positively on some of the others, I'd say quality regional education and health services closely followed by economic development and harmonising cross-border issues.
Access to world class education and health are the cornerstone of building a thriving community, that is why I think it is our number one priority.
RICK DEL MONTE
(Answer 1) My favourite thing about Wodonga is the people that live here.
Over the past 17 years I have seen many changes in the landscape of Wodonga including the creation of shopping centres, expansion of business and an increase in visitor numbers.
One thing that hasn't changed is the attitude of the residents. Wodonga people retain real values when it comes to family, to friends and to the overall well being of their community.
Visitors and new residents are welcomed and made to feel at home.
It is the genuineness and sincerity of Wodonga people that make this a great place to live.
(Answer 2) Council needs to invest in infrastructure that enables new businesses to locate, develop and grow in the Wodonga area.
Investment in infrastructure represents investment in prosperity by creating jobs, contributing to the expansion of our economy and enhancing Wodonga's commercial and domestic reputation as a destination of choice.
Council owns large parcels of land which are suitably located, and zoned, to accommodate a significant increase in business development.
Any investment by council which leads to increased employment, increased profits in the community and an increase in profile for Wodonga is money well spent.
(Answer 3) I believe the Two Cities One Community initiative has been successful to date.
Examples of its success include acquiring $100 million for rail, the regional cricket hub, strategic development of the community aquatic centre with room for further expansion to meet demand and co-ordinated lobbying leading to significant relaxing of border closure restrictions.
The philosophy of the initiative is in recognition of the unique geographic and demographic nature of the Albury-Wodonga area.
It capitalises on the principle of economy of scale by bringing together two communities speaking with one voice.
I also see the initiative as a great way to unite the communities of Albury and Wodonga to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
(Answer 4) Mountain bike tracks are, whether we like it or not, a development of sorts.
I support the development of mountain bike tracks, and other recreational facilities, conditionally.
Any tracks developed should be located in appropriate areas, identified after detailed examination and public consultation and where there is minimal disruption to natural fauna, flora or the environment.
There needs to be a balance between any development of residential, industrial or recreational areas whilst protecting our natural assets.
Many tourists who are mountain bike riders fit the demographic of professional persons who willingly contribute to the economy of communities when visiting, and utilising, these types of recreational facilities.
Whether there is a need for more mountain bike tracks is a question requiring much further analysis and consideration.
(Answer 5) Albury-Wodonga received one of only three regional deals granted in the nation.
Funding from the regional deal should be used to attract business and investment to our region which creates a positive economy, a positive and stable population and enables long term commitment to transformational projects over the next 10 to 20 years or more.
Due to the importance of such spending, and the need for responsible decisions to be made, strategic expert panels have been established to engage with the community and provide a list of projects to be considered and prioritised.
Until we see what those projects are I think it would be premature for me to identify specific priorities for spending at this time.
(Answer 1) My wife Judy, our two children and I moved to Wodonga from Albury after constructing our new home during April 1988.
This coincided with the start of our computer services business that continues today.
My favourite thing is our vast network of parks and pathways that have become an integral way of life for Wodonga residents.
DevCorp planning saw this as important and I'm really glad they did.
It has allowed for an amazing lifestyle where our children walked to school most days.
They also cater for daily exercise and easy access to shops, social, medical and sport.
All within walking distance.
Let's not forget our community.
Without this sense of belonging and perceived ownership our city would feel very empty.
Wodonga has an amazing bond that is shared by all that live in this close-knit community.
(Answer 2) Open a channel between council and all business (especially small business) that forums everything that has affected their livelihood and what needs to be done.
Council needs to activate initiatives to revitalise Wodonga businesses that have suffered leading up to a post COVID-19 new normal.
The food and restaurant industry will require a completely new way of operating in the short and medium terms in order to survive.
Council should immediately review any or all restrictive licensing rules and regulations regarding outdoor trading and assist in building a more cosmopolitan environment in our new CBD.
Our sidewalks are now much wider and can accommodate these changes easily.
The entertainment industry will also require major support and I will work hard to ensure that this vital community industry is not lost to us.
(Answer 3)This has been one of the most functional and region changing initiatives I've seen.
Up until COVID and the border lockdown it started a conversation between all Albury-Wodonga residents concerning a shared future.
Over a century of parochial division has made way for a common sense approach.
(Answer 4) I'm sure that many Wodonga residents are aware that I have been advocating for a very long time for the preservation of what's left of our remaining natural environment.
This includes our hills.
Having said this, I must also say that the continued development of Huon Hill as a sporting precinct and the sustainable upgrading of existing facilities within the Klings Hill area controlled by council is something that I do not oppose.
(Answer 5) All NSW and Victorian border cities and towns have suffered a major body blow with regard to border closure.
The $3 million the federal government allocated Albury-Wodonga for regional deal planning did not consider any post COVID-19 realisation.
The state-based lack of understanding which lead to the border closure some two months ago has created confusion in the way we might lay down the deal's foundations.
Might I suggest that our regional deal (the only one of three that involves two states) is compromised and a serious question mark now hangs over this unique cross border concept.
Our region must now reinvent itself in the eyes of our federal and NSW/Victorian governments by advocating for the creation or formation of a new territory or similar concept that includes Albury-Wodonga along with dependent rural cities, towns and villages on both sides of the current border region.
Only then can we move forward and realise the great combined region we can become.
(Answer 1) Wodonga is everything to me.
I was born here, raised here, educated and worked here for all but two years when I worked at Ford in Geelong.
When my contract ended, there was no doubt, I was coming home to Wodonga.
It has so much to offer, the people, the lifestyle, the location close to so much, from wineries to the snow to the weir, the climate, friends and family, but a deep connection to the place has to be on top of the list.
(Answer 2) Great care needs to be taken in investing in COVID recovery.
Just throwing money around without targeting who will benefit would be more detrimental than careful assistance to the most affected.
Even greater concentration on using local businesses and contractors to carry out works than normal is a must.
Rate relief, not just limiting rises but actual cuts along with a reduction in councillor allowances could help stimulate a positive attitude that we are, in fact, all in this together.
(Answer 3) No doubt co-operation between Albury and Wodonga councils is imperative.
Talk of amalgamation has been bandied about before and the realisation of the practical issues become all too apparent.
While co-operation must exist there has been many cases where parochial opinions have meant unnecessary duplication harming efficiency and costing a lot of money.
Logic v Nexus, both are struggling, Logic has been a massive weight on ratepayers of Wodonga and is only now starting to realise some potential.
The library/gallery development in Wodonga seems expensive overkill when Albury has so recently built a large museum/gallery.
On the other hand the closing of Wodonga pound has been a negative to the city and animal welfare, in the name of Two Cities, One Community.
It must continue but care should be taken.
(Answer 4) A highly contentious issue.
I am all for sporting facilities of all types in Wodonga, as such, more mountain biking trails are absolutely appropriate.
Given that, we must take great care in their placement, so as to ensure the protection of ecologically sensitive areas.
I don't, for example, agree with their construction within nature reserves.
There are areas that could be utilised with much less environmental impact and the potential of more comprehensive facilities.
(Answer 5) The regional deal has potential to bring a higher level of funding to the area.
It also has the potential to turn into a massively expensive talk-fest if not handled correctly.
We absolutely must consult with communities and prioritise accordingly.
I can put up an over-the-top wish list, as can every other person in the region.
What we must do is ensure Wodonga's interests are put forward in the strongest terms by an absolutely committed representative, with no hint of any bias toward any other municipality.