A TOUGH year saw major developments put on the back-burner.
Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) mayor Col Murray is hopeful 2021 is the time to put a $67 million aquatic centre, an overhaul of Bicentennial Park and council-run events back on the priority list.
While COVID-19 mucked business about, it was an opportunity to sit back and take stock, Cr Murray said.
"It pushed our priorities around a little bit, we certainly chose to refocus on some of the immediate stimulus projects that we could get on the ground and get happening," he said.
"It gave us the opportunity to do a lot of strategic planning with staff who's normal work was disrupted by COVID-19; we deployed a lot of staff to get strategic plans in place and it was really pleasing to keep those staff members productive."
Among those is a plan that sets out sports and recreation developments for the next two decades - including three new sports domes when the city hits 80,000 people.
A facelift for the century-old Tamworth Regional Gallery and a broader cultural precinct are a top priority this year, with plans for an extension.
With limited financial support available from the state and federal governments in the midst of the pandemic, the council voted to defer its $67 million aquatic centre plan until this year.
The first council meeting will be held at the start of February and a budget review will help the council get a clearer picture of its ability to spend on major developments, Cr Murray said.
"The aquatic centre will be considered in the next few months when we put together the budgets and weigh up the impact of COVID," he said.
"We did resolve to put it on hold until this financial year and will look at that as part of the budget process with a few million needed to be invested in the project.
"All of these things will require a lot of external funding and in a post-COVID environment the cupboard might be a little bare with state and federal funding."
Not even the pandemic could get in the way of the long-awaited Tamworth Intermodal Rail Hub and associated Tamworth Global Gateway Park in 2020, with significant development leaps made.
The first parcels of land in the industrial business park are being marketed to the public and trains are expected to roll through the intermodal hub by September.
Cr Murray said it's unlikely COVID-19 will be eradicated in the near future, but as the community learns to manage its impacts he hopes large events can return along with an increase in business at the airport.
"The council has tracked well, apart from some distinct areas like the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC) - we haven't been able to run events but that is changing," he said.
"It created a big hole in our events area and more particularly the airport has been a real drain on that particular part of the business with the lack of revenue, which has dropped by a major, major extent."
For 2021, Cr Murray's goal is to keep the community safe and the economy rolling along until council elections in September.
"Another lock down would be quite damaging I think to our economy," he said.
"We would be in a better position to handle it than we were in April or March last year ... I support Premier Berejiklian's comments that it's not reasonable to expect to eradicate COVID, but we can learn to manage it in a region or city.
"I'm extremely proud of the way the Tamworth community has managed and handled it, I have always had a strong belief that we are a resilient community."
The council will review its budget for the next year in the coming months and a large agenda is expected for the first meeting back on February 9.