Working to bridge the state divide

NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish was in Wallangarra working on solutions to complex problems.

NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish was in Wallangarra working on solutions to complex problems.

While cross-border issues for us tend to centre around Wallangarra/Jennings, NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish tackles border challenges right around the state from his Wagga Wagga base. 

He travelled to the Wallangarra Railway Cafe on Thursday, April 20 to have his say and do some listening at the Cross Border Strategic Alliance meeting between mayors, general managers, councillors and other staff from Southern Downs Regional Council and Tenterfield Shire Council. (See related story here.)

These two councils have clear social and economic interdependencies.

NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish.

“There’s always a local flavour to border issues, and these two councils have clear social and economic interdependencies,” he said.

The closure of the Wallangarra Meatworks and its impact on local jobs and repercussions was raised at the meeting, as were options for diversifying the district’s economic base. Mr McTavish sees a much greater interest at the state and federal levels in developing regional areas, particularly in the development of tourism and maximising the attraction of natural assets.

“How many thousands of vehicles pass down this highway each day,” he said. “Imagine if an extra one per cent of those vehicles stopped and spent $50 in town. It would be an enormous benefit.”

Daylight saving was brought up at the meeting, although Mr McTavish said the Queensland Government has made its stance clear. Lismore MP Thomas George (also at the meeting) raised the Nationals’ proposal to at least shorten next year’s daylight savings period by a month, but Mr McTavish said one of his jobs was to help border areas deal with the impact of different time zones.

“For schools that may be more flexible arrangements for start and finish times. For public transport it means meeting needs in both service delivery areas. There could be a thousand solutions to a very complex problem.”

Meanwhile the commissioner is rolling out his 2016/17 work list, and revising the 2017/18 plan.

He said he is seeing genuine improvement in areas like policing, environment, education, health and social housing, and more sharing of information on child protection and domestic violence cases.

There’s also a range of transport infrastructure projects, and a broader discussion on economic development.

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