As the year draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on what we have achieved together as a community in 2023 and look ahead to some of the exciting projects and ideas we’ll work on in 2024.
It was an honour and a privilege to be re-elected in March, and having given the government a guarantee of supply, it has been rewarding to work closely with various ministers to achieve important successes for the community.
It has been a year of advocacy on issues of vital importance to our community, with changes to unpopular plans for the approaches to the Gobba Bridge opening the way for renewed lobbying for a bridge duplication, coupled with an announcement by the government that the Marshall Street upgrade would go ahead as hoped.
In another major development, approval was given to the Tolland Renewal Project to help ease our chronic housing shortage. Housing is a critical issue, and I will be pushing the government to do as much as it can to find homes for local people.
It was also a win to achieve the establishment of a lower house committee to secure an inquiry aimed at ensuring the recommendations of an Upper House rural and regional health committee are in fact delivered. Rural health needs sustained focus to make sure that we turn around the situation and give rural people access to the health care they need and deserve.
A community-led campaign also delivered important support to the push to underground the HumeLink power cables when an independent investigation found undergrounding is much less expensive than first claimed.
There’s still much to be done to win that fight but it’s essential to protect farmland and lifestyles from the risky, unsightly and intrusive overhead option – so with community support, we’ll continue the campaign in 2024.
It was also a win to see the government recognise that the old ambulance station belonged to the people of Wagga Wagga and refund the money the council had paid for it.
Roads are a critical issue for us all and it was pleasing to see funding arrive quickly to help our local councils, including Lockhart and Snowy Valleys, repair roads damaged by floods and other extreme weather.
A highlight of 2023 came when we secured a promise from the government to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for Wagga radiotherapy and medical oncology treatment, reflecting the needs of 12,000 people who signed a petition we presented to Parliament mid-year.
That service will deliver equity and financial support to local people at a time when they’re most in need of help, so I’ll work closely with the government to ensure those services are delivered by mid-2024.
Another focus of 2024 will be to secure a guarantee that a bypass of Wagga will be a condition of approval for Inland Rail. It’s a valuable project that will be terrific for the local economy, but it should only proceed if the city’s health, safety and amenity are not compromised.
It will also be important to keep advocating for the Snowy Valleys Council demerger.
These are just some of the big-ticket items for 2023 and beyond but of course, there are countless ways we’ve worked together to improve the electorate in small ways and large.
I’d like to thank the community for defining and driving ideas that are helping to make our region an even better place to live and work.
It’s time now, though, to put up our feet and celebrate the festive season. If you’re travelling, please take care on the roads, and with the road toll unacceptably high, remember that it’s best to arrive late than not at all.
The end of the year is also a time to take stock of our health and to look after ourselves. Play it safe by the water, do your best to beat the summer heat, spare a thought for or lend a helping hand to those doing it tough and most of all, enjoy this wonderful time of the year safely and responsibly.
I’m looking forward to continuing our work together in 2024 but for now, from my family to yours, I’d like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, a safe and relaxing holiday, and a new year that brings everything you’re hoping for.