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Committee4Wagga helping economic powerhouse reach its full potential

It’s July 2019 and New South Wales, along with our entire Nation, is negotiating its way through what is now being called a retail recession. New South Wales has the added burden of being a State that’s contending with severe drought in many areas.

It’s therefore not surprising to see several Regional cities currently looking at ways to improve the quality of life and economic prospects of their communities. For some communities, taking steps now might be regarded as doing too little too late, but for others like Wagga Wagga in the Riverina area of New South Wales, they started their program several years back and are now seeing the benefits with several faring far better overall, compared to similar Cities now facing the same issues.

To help others gain some insight from those cities that already have strategies and development programs already along the way, National Life spoke to people from the Committee4Wagga for this story. We hope you enjoy David Dixon’s story and find it helpful in some way.

Committee4Wagga helping economic powerhouse reach its full potential

David Dixon

It’s a business engagement model that is taking-off in Australia and New Zealand; and Wagga Wagga is only the second city in NSW to get on board.

The Committee4Wagga’s ambitions are simple; to help this southern NSW regional powerhouse reach its full potential.

“We’re really about a business-community funded organisation making things happen,” Chief Executive Officer Alan Johnston explained. “It’s about targetting those things that aim to progress the city.”

With successes including advocating for a major redevelopment of the Bomen Industrial Park and flood-proofing the city with the $20 million levee enhancement program; the Committee’s hard-work over the past decade is starting to pay dividends.

The “Lights 4 Lake” project involved the installation of 104 solar-powered lights around the Lake Albert foreshore to activate the space outside of daylight hours and promote a healthy lifestyle within the community. The concept was initiated by Elodie Vanoudendycke, a participant in Committee4Wagga’s Emerging Leaders program.

Committee4Wagga is proud of its contribution to the City through delivering of initiatives including the establishing of the New Years Eve community event, providing Close Circuit Television (CCTV) in the Central Business District, installing solar lights around the 5.5km foreshore of Lake Albert and leading the “Share the Road” campaign for cycling throughout the city and surrounding roads(see attached article).

The “Committee4” brand which already includes Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth on its books; is now becoming increasingly-popular with regional cities like Wagga Wagga.

Each of the 104 solar lights in the Lake Albert “Lights 4 Lake” project were all sponsored by local community members, business owners, and community groups.

Committee4Wagga is a membership-based, self-funded, independent organisation that develops partnerships with key stakeholder groups in business and the community, and works with all levels of government, to achieve its purpose.

 “The model that we used is not unique to ourselves; ours is based on the ‘Committee4Geelong’. We looked at their success and kicked-off our own Committee in 2010/2011,” Alan said.

“It’s a little different from a typical Chamber of Commerce; though we do work with the Chamber and groups like Women in Business,” he explained.

“We’re working in a different area, we’re on a different football field…it’s more of a think-tank arrangement.”

An incorporated organisation managed by a Board, Alan was one of the Directors until last year before taking-over as CEO.  The inaugural Chair was local business-woman Judy Galloway.

“Judy was one of those people who was very keen to make it happen…she has always liked to see the city go forward,” Alan said. “Ms Galloway’s drive and determination to see the group succeed has been a crucial factor in its growing success,” Alan believes.

“We will bring together leaders in our community to share knowledge and resources in identifying and addressing opportunities,” Ms Galloway said at the organisation’s launch in 2011.

“What’s a good idea for Wagga! That’s what we’re looking at. We don’t pretend to have all the great ideas for the City, but we work with those who do,” Alan enthused.

The project that most typifies the advocacy success of the Committee is the current levy enhancement project to protect the flood-prone areas of the city which is bordered on two sides by the Murrumbidgee River from one in 100-year floods.

The project that most typifies the advocacy success of the Committee is the current levy enhancement project to protect the flood-prone areas of the city which is bordered on two sides by the Murrumbidgee River from one in 100-year floods.

“The upgrade will be completed early next year at a cost of about $20 million,” Alan said proudly.

The recent designation by the State Government of the Bomen Industrial Estate as a “Special Activation Precinct” (SAP) is another significant boost to the future of the Cities economy.

“We’re working towards an upgraded industrial park, logistics hub and rail siding on the main southern Sydney to Melbourne line and also the future inland rail network between Melbourne and Brisbane” Alan explained.

“Our designation as an SAP — one of only two in the State — is significant for the ability of the City to attract new business to and facilitate expansion of existing businesses in the Industrial Park,” Alan explained.

He said that, once Wagga Wagga had decided to adopt the “Committee4” model, the other cities involved in the program that they looked for guidance couldn’t have been more helpful.

“it’s very much a cooperative approach, everyone’s looking to have a similar positive impact on their city or region. We’re not competing with each other,” he explained.

With a Board of 11 local businesspeople ranging from representatives of major corporations to medium-sized local enterprises, supported by a full time CEO and an Executive Assistant, he believes that this wide range of expertise and engagement is another strength of the organisation.

“I worked more than 20 years for an international chemical company based in Wagga Wagga; and I’ve not seen anything better.”

And his advice for other cities looking to emulate the success of Committee4Wagga? Keep the politics out of the organisation and its advocacy, both personal and public!

“I think you need to remember that, whatever your purpose is, it’s apolitical; it’s got to be for the greater good. Also I think that, as much as possible, it’s got to be in a spirit of collaboration.”

“Everything is built on relationships; you’ve got to remember that on the journey.”

Strategic patience is the other key component, don’t tread on other organisations’ toes by trying to get everything done in the first year of operation.  The wheels of government and private enterprise move at different speeds – balancing the two to deliver an outcome for the community can be a challenge.

“Keep an open dialogue and understand what is driving you. If someone from another organisation comes up with a new idea, clearly attribute that.”

Other initiatives of the Committee4Wagga include a mentoring program for Wagga’s Young Professionals with nominated mentees paired with some of Wagga Wagga’s more experienced leaders focussing on ‘developing a productive mentoring relationship’.

Another novel approach to identifying and encouraging the creation of business intellectual capital in the community is the Committee’s School Leaders Program.

Students from seven local high schools are selected by their schools to attend a structured program delivered over five months. Content is built around leadership development, presentation skills and understanding business operations and role in the community, to prepare students to become future leaders.

The program is funded by Committee members, government agencies and Charles Sturt University.

Committee4Wagga is succeeding where many other business-focused groups in the past have failed by keeping as many irons in the fire as possible and moving each project forward in a spirit of co-operation for the common good.

“Some projects may not come to fruition; there’s always a range of things going on and you just have to keep moving forward,” Alan explained.

The city recently received a boost with the State Government in 2018 identifying Wagga Wagga as an area of “significant growth” in the State’s 20-year economic vision for regional NSW. This will be supported by State Government investment in industrial infrastructure and digital connectivity funded from the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund.

The State Government plan envisages Wagga Wagga’s population swelling from its current 67,000 people to 100,000 residents by 2038.

“That sort of impetus will drive a whole range of areas for us, we’re very excited at the opportunities this presents,” Alan concluded.

Read more about Committee4Wagga at https://committee4wagga.com.au/

Committee4Wagga Chief Executive Officer Alan Johnston “We’re really about a business-community funded organisation making things happen. It’s about targetting those things that aim to progress the city.”

The inaugural Chair of Committee4Wagga was local businesswoman Judy Galloway. “We will bring together leaders in our community to share knowledge and resources in identifying and addressing opportunities,” Ms Galloway said at the organisation’s launch in 2011.

Strategic patience and collaboration key to Committee4Wagga’s success story

Work together and keep your eyes on the main prize, that’s the key to success for eight-years of achievements for the Committee4wagga. Some of their greatest hits include:

Wagga Live 

Committee4Wagga In 2013 recognised the community’s aspirations for a New Year’s Eve event. With financial support from local business sponsors and the Wagga Wagga City Council, Committee4Wagga hosted the first “Wagga Live” event. The inaugural festival exceeded expectations, attracting more than 10,000 people and the event has since been held annually. The most recent crowd surpassed 13,000 people, the largest annual event held in the city. 

Wagga Live aims to bring the community together to enjoy what is great about living in Wagga Wagga. The event utilises some of the city’s greatest assets, with the Victory Memorial Gardens and Lagoon precinct forming the event grounds. Music and entertainment throughout the evening culminates in firework displays at 9pm and midnight to officially bring in the New Year. 

Wagga Live has become an iconic local celebration and C4Wagga is very proud of what has been achieved.

Led by C4Wagga in partnership with: 
Wagga Wagga City Council 
Event sponsors 
Wagga entertainers/musicians 

CCTV 4 Wagga 

Committee4Wagga partnered with the community, Wagga Wagga City Council and the State and Federal Governments to fund and install a CCTV camera system within the Wagga Wagga central business area in 2015. The initiative has improved the city’s liveability and portrays a strong message of safety to visitors and the community. 

C4Wagga committed to partnering with the community to raise $100,000 required to deliver the project following funding commitments from Wagga Wagga City Council of $300,000, the NSW Government of $100,000 and the Federal Government of $590,000. Working collaboratively with the community, local businesses and key stakeholders, C4Wagga was able to successfully achieve the $1M funding target and make the project a reality. 

The 25-camera system has helped to reduce crime, violence, anti-social behaviour and damage to property in the central business area by enabling Police to respond and resolve issues more effectively.

Led by C4Wagga in partnership with: 
Community 
Wagga Wagga City Council 
NSW Government 
NSW Police 
Federal Government

 


Lights 4 Lake 

The Lights 4 Lake project involved the installation of 104 solar powered lights around the Lake Albert foreshore to activate the space outside of daylight hours and promote a healthy lifestyle within the community. 

The concept was initiated by Elodie Vanoudendycke, a participant in Committee 4 Wagga’s Emerging Leaders program and brought to reality through partnerships between C4Wagga, Wagga Wagga City Council, the NSW Government and, most importantly, the local community. Following seed funding commitments from the Wagga Wagga City Council and the NSW Government, C4W led a community appeal to raise the remaining $250,000 required to deliver the project. Each of the 104 solar lights was offered for sponsorship to the public, business owners, and community groups who are now recognised with a plaque on their corresponding light pole. 

The Lights 4 Lake project delivers social, environmental and recreational benefits to our city through increasing the accessibility and safety of the pathway while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle at the popular community space. The project would not have been possible without the significant generosity of the community and every contributor has worked together to create a positive, lasting legacy for the city. 

Led by C4Wagga in partnership with: 
Community 
Wagga Wagga City Council 
NSW Government 

Share the Road 

Committee4Wagga is supportive of increasing active transport within the city and initiated the “Share the Road” campaign to improve safety and awareness for cyclists in and around the city. The campaign was funded through community fundraising and facilitated by C4Wagga in partnership with Wagga Wagga City Council, Wagga Cycling Groups, WIN TV, The Daily Advertiser, Local businesses and community members. 

The campaign raised $35,000 in total through donations from local businesses, groups and individuals, with the majority of the funding used to install 45 “Share the Road” signs on popular regional cycling routes in and around Wagga Wagga. In addition to the signage, a voluntary code of conduct for cyclists was established to promote better awareness and integration between cyclists and other road users. 

Led by C4Wagga in partnership with: 
Community 
Wagga Wagga City Council 
Wagga Cycling Groups 
Win TV 
The Daily Advertiser

The “Lights 4 Lake” project delivered social, environmental and recreational benefits to the city through increasing the accessibility and safety of the pathway while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle at the popular community space.
Committee4Wagga’s “Wagga Live” event each New Year’s eve aims to bring the community together to enjoy what is great about living in Wagga Wagga. The event utilises some of the city’s greatest assets, with the Victory Memorial Gardens and Lagoon precinct forming the event grounds. Music and entertainment throughout the evening culminates in firework displays at 9pm and midnight to officially bring in the New Year.

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