When she steps away from her position as Mayor of Yass Valley Council, Rowena Abbey hopes the new council – to be elected in December – will continue to work with state and federal MPs to attract infrastructure funding to the region.
Mayor Abbey said recent projects, such as the Barton Highway duplication and Yass to Murrumbateman pipeline were just the tip of the iceberg, and she has called on the community to continue to lobby for improvements to water quality, new schools and the development of the new civic precinct.
She said while the NSW Government has agreed to provide some funding for a new water treatment plant, it is yet to sign off on the design, which could cost up to $32 million – well above the initial estimated cost of $10 million.
“As soon as we agree on a design, we’ll be looking for additional funding from the state or federal governments to upgrade our very old treatment plant,” said Mayor Abbey.
She said the housing shortage is a critical issue in Yass, as well as other regional areas around NSW, but said there can’t be a growing area without a good, reliable water supply.
“We’re seeing incredible growth and new people moving to the region, and we need to provide big infrastructure such as schools, water and good roads for them,” said Mayor Abbey.
“We have around 3000 people who commute to Canberra every day and they have high expectations of sealed roads and clean water.”
Mayor Abbey said Yass is becoming a more attractive area for young families to live given its proximity to Canberra and shops, fresh food, restaurants and wineries.
She said both new and old businesses in the region are willing to “roll up their sleeves” and fight for funding to improve the region and to get community projects, such as the Crago Mill Precinct, off the ground.
Yass businessman and developer Stan Waldren said the current and previous councils, during the past 20 years, have lobbied hard for their community, with projects such as the high school and hospital upgrades, assistance for local emergency services, and the creation of a Men’s Shed.
“Council’s role is always crucial in ensuring services are maintained because country areas, under all levels of government, can often lose critical services,” he said.
Mr Waldren added Yass is “blessed” to have “good, strong local members” in a marginal seat who have had a good relationship with Mayor Abbey and previous Mayor Nic Carmody OAM.
He said while Yass is a growing area, the challenge is to manage growth and provide housing and community infrastructure without losing the rural feel of the town – or losing its young people.
“[When] you lose young families, you lose the heart and soul of your community – which often happens in rural areas,” said Mr Waldren.
Long-time Yass Valley resident and former Goodradigbee Shire President Peter Walker has been lobbying for the Barton Highway upgrade since the 1970s due to ongoing safety concerns.
He is pleased to see work has finally commenced, 43-years after he was featured discussing the issue on the front page of the Yass Tribune. He hopes funding will continue to flow to Yass, which he described as the “nerve centre of the Yass Valley”.
Mr Walker’s son, Jack, is president of Yass Valley Business Chamber, and Yarrah project manager. He said the $200 million allocation to the Barton Highway only came about after Yass Valley moved into the bellwether Eden-Monaro seat and became an election issue driven by the Barton Highway Community Action Group, led by Sophie Wade.
He said the community needs to continue lobbying for better distribution of government funding for important projects such as War Memorial Hall, Children Play Equipment at Murrumbateman, Yass Historical Bike Rail Trail, Yass Agricultural Museum, and improvements to critical infrastructure such as water quality and upgrading the sewage pipe network.
Jack said with new businesses popping up in Yass and the increasing popularity of the town as a lifestyle destination, it’s crucial to continue improving the services and facilities of the community.
“Very often revivals start with new people coming into communities and this is something that is occurring in Yass with the range of new businesses that have emerged in the past five to 10 years,” he said.
Jack said Yass Valley Council must remain “fit for the future” to not only attract government investment for major infrastructure projects, but to also maintain its ability to self-govern rather than being forced to merge into a super local government organisation.
He said the family’s new Yarrah masterplanned community on the Yass River will not only deliver much needed affordable land and housing, as well as commercial and office spaces through a mixed-use activity centre, it will deliver 11 hectares of parkland and open space.
“This is the type of development that provides the business case state and federal governments are looking for, and will help to attract government spending to the Yass Valley region, ensuring it thrives into the future.”
Original Article published by Katrina Condie on The RiotACT.