The biggest story on the Border in 2021 was again COVID-19 with the virus hitting even harder than last year. Health impacts we mostly dodged 12 months ago came hard and fast. We've taken a look at the year in review. Part two coming tomorrow.
After largely escaping direct exposure to the worst aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Albury-Wodonga experienced a major outbreak of cases, and, sadly, deaths in the second half of this year.
Mercy was locked down for 30 days with strict limits on movement in and out of the home.
The lockdown lasted until September 22, but it followed an earlier shutdown of all regional NSW a month earlier.
By mid-October when the rest of the nation was temporarily in the clear, Albury-Wodonga was in the midst of its most significant outbreak with more than 30 schools caught up in the rapidly escalating situation.
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Daily cases in Albury peaked at 48 on October 21 and Wodonga recorded its worst day of 45 on October 29.
But no border community was spared exposure.
The NSW government also shipped in 30,000 Rapid Antigen Tests for use primarily in schools.
Even with testing stations were being swamped and case numbers exploding, Professor Chant played down the need for a circuit-breaker lockdown which had been repeatedly called for by border medical professionals.
Wodonga's old Coles supermarket building became the major vaccination hub for Albury-Wodonga when it opened in early April.
But Albury and Wodonga trailed many other surrounding council areas in reaching key jab milestones of 70, 80 and 90 per cent double dosed.
Border closures were back in 2021, not once, but twice.
Victorian holiday-makers literally had to down drinks, pack up campsites and leave river towns with bookings for the remainder of January cancelled on the spot.
Mulwala Water Ski Club went from fully booked to just six per cent occupancy when the border was slammed shut on New Year's Eve.
The bubble was back in early July to allow easier movement for border residents.
But unlike last year there were no 24/7 fixed checkpoints causing lengthy delays with the exception of the January border closure when they were set up on the Lincoln Causeway.
Victorian Police introduced roving patrols, but frustrations remained until the measures were lifted in early October.
Hospitality businesses, particularly on the Victorian side of the border, again felt the negative forces of the virus with highly restrictive density limits.
Residential, commercial and rural property prices exploded in 2021 following clear signs of strong growth in the initial year of the pandemic.
A steady stream of $1 million sales for homes in Albury and Wodonga began occurring in the back half of 2020 before becoming commonplace this year.
The amount of auctions, held both onsite and online depending on the COVID landscape at the time, soared.
Cashed-up city investors joined locals in helping drive up property prices to levels never seen before in all parts of the twin cities.
Homes in central and East Albury regularly topped the $1 million mark with even bigger sums paid for properties in areas such as Doctors Point.
Commercial real estate was also in high demand.
Harris Farms opened its doors in early 2021 after Amart commenced trading in late 2019.
The Officeworks store, on the corner of Young and Smollett streets, sold in May for $10.95 million and a medical precinct in Padman Drive in West Albury also changed hands this year for $4.185 million.
Ongoing historically low interest rates and record commodity prices again translated into huge prices continuing to be paid for farmland in all corners of the region.
Among many bumper sales were Dalriada north of Holbrook for more than $40 million, Woonoona in the Upper Murray for $16 million and a King River property selling for an eye-popping $18,181 per acre.
Council elections were finally held in Albury and others parts of NSW in late December after being postponed initially last year and then further delayed in 2021.
Former mayor Stuart Baker was also back with another of his ticket members, Jessica Kellahan, elected for the first time.
The Greens retained a presence on council with Ashley Edwards successful and another former councillor Daryl Betteridge also returning.
A mayoral replacement for Kevin Mack, who didn't contest the election, will be decided in the new year.
Early 2021 will also see the court sequel to charges being laid against Mr van de Ven after rival candidate Ross Hamilton alleged the former mayor and city businessman threatened to punch him outside a pre polling station.
A hot issue in the final year of the council was erection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at the city's war memorial.
Cr Graham Docksey, who was also the Albury RSL sub branch president, opposed the Indigenous flags on the basis that a suitable tribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel was created when the monument underwent a recent upgrade.
Wiradjuri man Bobby Whybrow challenged councillors to re-think their attitude and on a 5-4 vote, the flags were given the green light.
Cr Docksey also was later officially censured for failing to manage his conflict on the casting vote of mayor, Cr Mack.
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