9 August 2023

NSW Premier praises Wagga's 'dynamic economy' and backs regional solutions to housing squeeze

| Chris Roe
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NSW Premier Chris Minns with Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty, Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr and Prefabulous MP Gavin King. Photo: Chris Roe.

NSW Premier Chris Minns made a surprise visit to Wagga Wagga on the weekend, visiting the Special Activation Precinct, CSU and the Wagga Base Hospital with Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty and Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr.

After a tour of modular home company Prefabulous at Bomen on Sunday, the Premier praised the city’s “fast-growing dynamic economy” and said it was his government’s intention to “get out of the way” and to support local business to prosper.

With the state experiencing a major housing shortage, Mr Minns said businesses like Prefabulous, which has begun selling Wagga-built houses into Western Sydney, were a great example of regional ingenuity.

“One of the leading reasons why you’re seeing such an escalation in rents and housing prices is because there’s a mismatch between demand and supply,” he said.

“That tells me that the NSW government’s responsibility is to help builders, particularly ones that are located in regional NSW, who are producing wonderful products that can be bought by the people of this state.”

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Dr McGirr thanked the Premier for his visit and said the growing industry in Wagga was an example of the shape of things to come.

“We’re often known just for agriculture, but of course, this is modern manufacturing here that’s going to do so much to address issues around affordable housing and housing generally, which we know is a big problem,” he said.

The Premier also acknowledged the challenges to regional growth brought by government red tape and the increasing skill shortage.

“It’s funny when you come to a place like Wagga and the economy is going so strong, one of the big things that regional businesses are talking to us about is the labour crunch,” he said.

“How do you get skilled labour into regional communities, because the orders are coming through the door and, particularly businesses like this one, want to keep pace with the growing economy? That’s a big challenge for us.”

Premier Chris Minns, Tara Moriarty and Dr Joe McGirr tour the Prefabulous site at Bomen with Managing Director Gavin King. Photo: Chris Roe.

With a visit to Wagga Base Hospital on the cards, the Premier said his government would take a close look at the findings of two inquiries into regional health after 30 women complained about maternity care they received.

“I think that this is an area of public health that may change and requires us to be on the cutting edge to ensure that we understand what families are going through, and if changes are needed, then we’ll be there to do it,” he said.

READ ALSO Murrumbidgee Local Health District issues apology as investigation looks at complaints

Dr McGirr added that regional maternity care needed to ensure that it placed “woman at the centre of that care, and we need to have excellent communication”. He said that with the review underway, change was already happening and that women could be confident in their treatment in the Riverina.

“I’ve seen the recommendations (from the Clinical Excellence Commission review), and from the feedback that I’ve had from the Health District on the quality of care and the outcomes for women and their babies, people should be confident in that care. ”

Chris Minns

Chris Minns said he is committed to changing regional perceptions of Labor. Photo: Chris Roe.

With the exception of the seat of Bega in the South and Lismore in the North, Labor’s narrow hold on power comes from a cluster of seats around Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains.

At the last election in the traditionally conservative seat of Wagga Wagga, there was a 1 per cent swing away from Labor with local candidate Keryn Foley claiming 13.7 per cent on first preferences compared to Dr McGirr’s 44.2 per cent.

Mr Minns said that he was “acutely aware” of a perception in the regions that Labor has forgotten the bush and that it remains an “uphill battle”.

“I think in many ways, it’s a communications issue,” he said.

“I want to really engage with regional communities, speak to them in towns and townships… like Wagga to understand what the issues are and to see when we can partner with growing country towns.

“There’s a great opportunity, particularly when it comes to growing the NSW economy that will be led by businesses and firms and industries in Regional NSW”.

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