30 November 2023

What you need to know about the billion-dollar Defence upgrades for Wagga

| Chris Roe
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RAAF Wagga

Wagga’s aging Defence facilities are in line for a billion-dollar facelift. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It’s no secret that defence is big business in Wagga and it’s about to get bigger as massive upgrades to the Australian Army’s Blamey Barracks at Kapooka and RAAF Base Wagga at Forest Hill get underway next year.

On Tuesday (5 December), representatives of the Riverina Redevelopment Program will host community walk-in sessions at the Mercure Hotel to explain the $800 million project.

“This massive investment will not only create hundreds of jobs during the construction of the new facilities but will also ensure the bases stay open for generations to come and continue to drive economic growth in the region,” said Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack, who urged locals to attend.

“Wagga Wagga is the only inland regional city with all three arms of the Australian Defence Force.

“Combined, they train more than 5000 young people every year and employ more than 4 per cent of the city’s population.”

Soldiers training

Australian Army recruits from Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, traverse the obstacle course during Exercise Binh Bah at Army Recruit Training Centre, Kapooka. Photo: Department of Defence.

RAAF Base Wagga was established during World War II and continues to provide training in aviation maintenance, logistics, administration and management.

The Blamey Barracks in Kapooka also dates to the 1940s and was initially established to train Army engineers. Today, the ‘Home of the Soldier’ hosts thousands of recruits each year as they undergo either 83 days of training or 35 days for part-time soldiers.

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Around $350 million will be spent upgrading the RAAF Base, while almost $450 million will be invested at Kapooka.

“Some of the underlying infrastructure of Blamey Barracks and RAAF Base Wagga harks back to the 1940s when they were first opened and need to be modernised,” Mr McCormack explained.

“Work will include new working, instructional and physical training facilities and accommodation.”

The project dates back to the 2016 Defence White Paper when the Federal Government pledged almost $1 billion to upgrade the Wagga bases and it is part of a broader $10 billion investment into NSW Defence facilities.

“In 2016, soon after I was appointed assistant minister for defence, I secured nearly $1 billion to upgrade these two vital military bases,” Mr McCormack said.

Riverina MP Michael McCormack

Riverina MP Michael McCormack has urged the community to attend the drop-in sessions explaining the upgrades to Wagga’s Defence bases. Photo: Chris Roe.

The project will be the largest infrastructure spend in Wagga’s history, almost double that spent by NSW Health in the Wagga Base Hospital Redevelopment, and will provide as many as 1800 jobs across the region.

Both bases provide enormous economic stability for the region and the regular march-out parades attract thousands of visitors each year.

“My aim was to future-proof the bases by delivering modern facilities for the training of young men and women tasked with protecting the security of our nation,” said Mr McCormack.

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The Department of Defence’s Riverina Redevelopment Program’s community walk-in sessions will be held at the Mercure Hotel, 1 Morgan Street, next Tuesday, 5 December, between 2 and 3 pm and between 5 and 7 pm.

The program is expected to be referred to The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works before the end of the year, with work expected to start in mid to late 2024.

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