Imagine Your Rural City 2020: Has Murray Bridge realised its vision of the future?

It was billed as a revolution, a collaborative engagement project unlike any previously attempted in Australia.

But eight years after the Imagine Your Rural City 2020 campaign ended, has its vision been realised?

Murray Bridge Mayor Brenton Lewis and his predecessor, Allan Arbon, sat down with The Standard this week to figure out how far we've come.

Mr Lewis, a Regional Development Australia executive at the time, said the Imagine 2020 campaign had launched as the millenium drought ended, amid predictions of economic and population growth driven by a new racecourse and suburb at Gifford Hill.

"That momentum brought vigour to the town," he said.

"The (Gifford Hill) joint venture company, under the auspices of Burke Urban, got pretty keen to help promote Murray Bridge - it was in their best interests.

"We employed Gilbert (Rochecouste), the man who brought the laneways in Melbourne; he held about 12 workshops which were extremely successful."

Hundreds of people had their input into the Imagine 2020 campaign at community meetings held around the district, and dozens signed up to be ambassadors for the bright future that lay ahead.

"The responses we got from our 2020 campaign showed a lot more interest locally than what the council thought (there would be) at the time," Mr Arbon said.

"The campaign showed that people cared about their town and their future."

Steve Moritz, Mark Goedecke, Ian Pithers, Mark Kwiatkowski, Tania Long and other locals attend a workshop in 2013. Photo: File.

Steve Moritz, Mark Goedecke, Ian Pithers, Mark Kwiatkowski, Tania Long and other locals attend a workshop in 2013. Photo: File.

Given the broad public interest, it produced countless ideas about how to improve the rural city.

But four stood out most prominently: people wanted Murray Bridge to lose its negative reputation; the Gifford Hill development to go ahead; the main street, Bridge Street, to be tidied up; and above all, improvements on the city's riverfront.

The image problem has persisted at times, fuelled by twomurders and drug problems which were highlighted by then-Senator Nick Xenophon; but the council's "Make It Yours" branding campaign and the beautification of Adelaide Road, combined with the reflected glow of tourist attractions such as The Bend Motorsport Park and Monarto Safari Park, have begun to turn the tide.

Murray Bridge Racing Club's track and function centre at Gifford Hill became widelydoubted.

"It was running two, three, five years behind schedule," Mr Lewis said.

"Negativity started to set in and it went into a real dip.

"When we did our next consultation (Let's Talk, in 2015) we got kicked in the head, people said 'we've seen it before' ... we can learn from that."

The racing club's facilities have since been built and praised, though the associated housing developments there and at the old racecourse are still a way off.

A debate about whether or not Bridge Street should be narrowed from four lanes to two led councillors to pursue an upgrade of Sixth Street first, and though they received millions of dollars worth of federal funding for the project, it was broadly criticised by local traders; the main street itself ended up getting only a minor spruce-up.

And the riverfront?

It has been the topic of plans and strategies more ambitious than ever, and even attracted a $1.3 million federal grant; and though a "play" precinct is due to be finished by 2022, major visible works still have not started.

Murray Bridge council chief executive officer Peter Bond and Mayor Allan Arbon review a concept plan for Bridge Street in 2013. Photo: File.

Murray Bridge council chief executive officer Peter Bond and Mayor Allan Arbon review a concept plan for Bridge Street in 2013. Photo: File.

But the current and former mayor both said the Imagine campaign had given Murray Bridge something it had lacked beforehand: momentum.

Mr Lewis said the mantra he had repeated during his 2014 election campaign and ever since - Murray Bridge proud, safe and progressive - was echoed comments people made during Imagine.

"They wanted those educational facilities, those businesses, those groups, good opportunities for youth," he said.

"I think we've responded, generally, to what people were looking for."

Mr Arbon agreed.

"I think 2020 has been realised to the point most of us expected," he said.

"I hope it continues."