Planning for the region’s Aboriginal communities
The regional plan acknowledges that Aboriginal people share a unique bond to Country – a bond forged through thousands of years travelling across the region’s lands and waterways for ceremony, trading and seasonal migration.
This requires all planning and development processes to use a Connecting with Country approach. This can help to sustainably manage Aboriginal culture and heritage. It will also help to build capacity and pathways for knowledge-sharing between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
The regional plan focuses on the continued collaboration with the region’s 20 Local Aboriginal Land Councils to respect and support Aboriginal culture, heritage and aspirations for land and water.
Work is continuing to improve the planning system so that we can collectively achieve the objectives of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. Assessments of Aboriginal-owned-and-managed land will continue. Strategic planning will support Aboriginal people’s connections to land, and their economic aspirations for this land.
The regional plan will also encourage the conservation and celebration of Aboriginal heritage. This is about respecting Aboriginal people’s rights to determine how their heritage is identified and managed.
This will help us to uphold some of the world’s longest standing spiritual, historical, social and educational values and protect precious areas – including waterfront sites – for cultural connection.
Planning for growth
The Riverina Murray region faces significant growth pressures, particularly in and around the regional cities of Wagga Wagga, Albury and Griffith, and along the Murray River. This has increased with the retention of existing and the influx of new residents during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The regional plan notes that this is more than just planning for new housing. It is also about a greater choice in housing as the region’s demographics change. It also acknowledges that we need to plan for visitor accommodation and places for seasonable and temporary workers to live.
For example, the existing regional housing stock is mostly larger, detached dwellings. An older population and affordability pressures require smaller, more accessible housing. The regional plan notes the need to plan for more resilient and energy-efficient housing.
People travel to Wagga Wagga, Albury and Griffith for work, education or services – for example, residents of Young, a nearly two-hour drive away, use health and education services in Wagga Wagga. It is expected these cities, and the communities along the Murray, will accommodate most growth in the future.
The regional plan thinks about the areas around the regional cities as ‘sub-regions’ and recognises the importance of smaller communities in providing unique rural lifestyles and servicing the surrounding agricultural and industrial economies.
Future strategic planning and development processes must manage how development interacts with waterways to protect water quality, public access and natural areas, while avoiding land clearing and poor development patterns.
Building connections and resilience
The plan provides a variety of measures to build sustainable communities. This means we plan to put in place infrastructure and services early, protecting character and heritage, people, connections and lifestyles.
Infrastructure includes all the utilities people use every day – water, energy, sewerage or telecommunications, for example. The regional plan requires early planning of these elements, particularly water, to ensure resilient communities where people can more easily and safely work, live and visit.
The regional plan establishes strategies to help protect main streets and built environments. It also focuses on heritage areas and requires future planning to embed an awareness of – and build respect for – the region’s Aboriginal cultural history.
The regional plan also recognises the uniqueness of this region in terms of its waterfront communities, and the connections both along the Murray River and with Victoria.
The Riverina Murray contains several twin towns across the border, such as Moama and Echuca and Albury and Wodonga and we expect to see a lot of growth in these areas.
People commute between states and many on the NSW side have greater connections to communities in Victoria than to other parts of NSW. Melbourne is only a 2.5- to 3-hour drive from most border towns. Extensive freight volumes are shifted to Melbourne Airport and the Port of Melbourne rather than NSW gateways.
The regional plan reiterates the importance of the cross-border commissioners in NSW and Victoria and the need for common approaches to various elements. This includes riverfront land ownership, different legislation and development requirements, combined housing markets, and the need to integrate the planning for transport and land uses.