1 September 2023

Wagga Councillor Dan Hayes to farewell his hometown for a 'new adventure'

| Chris Roe
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Dan Hayes

Councillor Dan Hayes is saying goodbye to his hometown to take on a new challenge in Wollongong. Photo: Chris Roe.

For Wagga City Councillor Dan Hayes, the decision to leave his hometown of Wagga Wagga for a new adventure in Wollongong was tough.

“Wagga is home, I was born and raised here, but as much as I could see myself doing the same thing here for another 20 years, it was time to take a risk,” he said.

“Wagga has given me everything I could have ever asked for – an education, friends, family, work, the opportunity to sit on Council, and these are not things that I take for granted, so it’s been a tough decision.”

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Cr Hayes announced his “big news” in a video on social media, explaining that he had accepted a new job outside the city and, while the date was not set, he would vacate his council seat.

“That means my time on Wagga City Council will be coming to an end earlier than the term, which is in September next year,” he said.

“I’m going to hand over a number of projects that I’ve been working on to counsellors who are willing to take up the fight that I’ve been doing, as well as getting a surety that there won’t be a costly by-election.”

A fresh-faced Dan Hayes joined the Council in 2016. Photo: Supplied.

Cr Hayes has been an outspoken local representative for the Labor Party and stood for state parliament in 2015, putting in a strong showing against Liberal incumbent Daryl Maguire, then again in the 2018 by-election and the subsequent poll in 2019.

He was first elected to Wagga City Council on a Labor Party ticket in 2016 with the promise “to help Wagga transition from a regional town into a city with a connected community”.

When he ran a second time, Cr Hayes declared that “the most important part of being a councillor is that you turn up and fight for opportunities for all and not just a select few”.

“My record shows while others act as handbrakes I am moving Wagga forward including supporting over $100 million of development to create jobs for our community; increasing the footpath network; improving safety of our roads at our schools; and delivering better services to our suburbs and villages,” his campaign flyer promised.

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Reflecting on his two terms representing the city, the 42-year-old said he was proud to have played a part in Wagga’s story but that there was a lot more work to be done.

“One of the things I’ve really pushed for has been around trying to get more focus on some of our forgotten suburbs like Ashmont, Mount Austin, Tolland and the like,” he said, adding that increasing housing density in the CBD was also something he had pushed for.

“People laughed at me and were quite dismissive about infill development seven years ago, but today that is a key part of the future of Wagga.

“Having three, four or five thousand more places to live in the city centre will be significant.”

Cr Hayes said he was instrumental in transitioning the Library to a stand-alone service that brought “more services for our suburbs and villages” and was an advocate for Wagga’s “super-park” down by the river.

“Originally that was going to be half the size and I really pushed for that to get more funding to be bigger and what an asset that is now down there,” he said.

“But I’m not going to say all these things are because of me, because we all pay one part of that journey.”

Dan Hayes

Councillor Dan Hayes with the city’s new public air compressor at Wagga Beach. Photo: Chris Roe.

He said that the hardest part of leaving Council was thinking about the things that have not yet been finished.

“I’ve been advocating for things like the airport that’s really such an essential part of Wagga’s future and that’s starting to get some traction now,” he said.

“There’s the Ambulance Station, the nighttime economy and talking about the next 20 years. Those are exciting conversations.

“I put my hand up to be on council because I wanted to be part of those discussions and the decision-making, so to give that up is tougher than I thought it would be.”

While he’s looking forward to a new chapter in the Illawarra, Cr Hayes said it’s the people of Wagga that he will miss the most.

“Your friends are what makes a place and I will miss them terribly.”

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