Partnership across the border
The Murray River, once seen as a division between NSW and Victoria, is now a symbol of unity, thanks to a historic cross-border partnership between two large regional councils that straddle the river.
AlburyCity in New South Wales and Wodonga Council in Victoria – friends and neighbours for decades – moved to a new stage in their relationship in October, when their respective mayors signed a collaboration agreement to create a united voice speaking for the more-than 90,000 people who call Albury-Wodonga home.
In what was believed to be an Australian-first, the partnership formalised what many in the combined community already knew – that the region known as ‘The Border’ is made up of two cities with one economy.
In recognition of that, the councils hope their new agreement will allow them to harness their joint powers in pursuit of federal and state funding to make a reality of ideas and projects that were once considered a dream.
Adding weight to the agreement, the region’s federal and state Members of Parliament have welcomed the partnership, promising to go into bat for the councils at high levels of government.
AlburyCity Mayor Kevin Mack said the agreement would allow both cities to retain their individual identities while working together to develop infrastructure and services that can be used by residents of both cities.
“The idea is to attract and grow our region by focussing on the four key pillars of leadership, economy, environment and community,” he said.
“The people of both cities have consistently told both councils that they want us to work more closely together. Now, we’re making that happen.”
Wodonga Mayor Anna Speedie said the agreement paved the way for a more co-operative and co-ordinated approach to planning, funding and building major infrastructure and facilities.
“We’ll be looking at initiatives that provide shared benefit for both communities and that deliver value for money,” she said.
“We also have an opportunity to partner with the Victorian, NSW and Australian governments to address cross-border issues and anomalies and to have far greater influence in decision making in relation to infrastructure investment.”
Albury and Wodonga are no strangers to working together.
In recent years, they’ve joined forces on projects as diverse as developing a combined destination marketing plan, working to halve the amount of waste they send to landfill and creating a digital economic strategy.
Draft goals have been established for all four ‘pillars’ and community consultation is being sourced to assess the community’s priorities, hopes and expectations over the next four years.