ECONOMIC INERTIA PLAGUES CESSNOCK

After 9 years as an elected councillor on Cessnock City Council with a stated desire to see economic reform happen and jobs growth take Cessnock from one of the lowest Socio- Economic status (SEIFA INDEX) in Australia to one of the best has been shown to have got us nowhere. My dreams of seeing an economic recovery for Cessnock have been dashed.
In the meantime (same 9 year period) we have witnessed exponential growth at Steel River Mayfield West, Beresfield and Thornton Industrial Estates, Rutherford and Anambah Industrial Estates in Maitland, while in Cessnock we have seen only two job creating businesses open on the Weston Industrial Estate and Alfabs Engineering an established business going from strength to strength.
Cessnock was one of the wealthiest coal producing areas in Australia and we are now witnessing the closure of the last remaining underground mines at Donaldson/Abel-Tasman and Yancoal’s Austar mine at Paxton gone, leaving the community with only one opencut mine at Buchanan still operating.
On top of this we witnessed the closure of the Hydro Aluminium Smelter at Kurri Kurri in 2014 leaving an economic hole of some $50 million in wages to the Cessnock area and hundreds unemployed. Due in part to various political and industrial issues this plant closed many years before its use by date.
The 900, hectare Hunter Economic Zone was approved back in 2000 yet due to concerted efforts by the local Greens, NIMBY’s and INERTIA by council it has never got off the ground.
On the upside we saw the opening of the Hunter Expressway in March 2014 and finally the start of the new town Huntlee after 8 years being held up in the courts by Greens, NIMBY’s and INERTIA by council.
The Rosehill development at Millfield was finally approved and sold off, Wyndham Ridge at Greta also approved and is now sold off. We also saw the approval granted for Cliftleigh Meadows and Avery’s Rise in the Heddon Greta area.
We don’t lack the potential for jobs growth as our residential block sales attest but we need to get industrial land up and selling. The redevelopment of the Hydro Smelter site and Black Hill Industrial parks need to be fast tracked to create employment opportunities before anymore largescale residential land is released.
As I see it, all that the Cessnock Local Government Area (LGA) is becoming at present is a satellite residential suburb of Newcastle and the wider Hunter areas. There is little in the way of serious planning approvals being undertaken for industry and jobs attraction.
Both of the Cessnock LGA business districts, Cessnock and Kurri Kurri are under stress with no large anchor tenants to create strong retail activity and we have witnessed what a one industry town is like when disaster hits, with the tourism sector ‘Wine Country’ brought to its knees during to the COVID epidemic.

During my two terms on council, we have seen many of the old timber bridges replaced, White Bridge Mulbring, Vermont Road Mulbring, Bow Wow Gorge Sandy Creek Road, Millgang Bridge at Ellalong, Crawfordville Bridge, Cuneens Bridge at Wollombi and Lomas Lane to name just a few. Major upgrades of Bridges Hill Park, Miller Park and currently Rotary Park in Kurri Kurri are completed or nearing completion due to funding grants.
In Kurri Kurri there were two serious flood problems solved in Heddon Street and Aberdare Street. My disappointment is that not very much new Kerb and Guttering was undertaken and Booth Street remains a problem after the 2015 Super Storm. The Heddon Greta Route 195 bottleneck to Maitland remains as unfinished business.
I would like to personally thank all those people in Ward D who had faith in me to represent your interests and concerns over the past nine years.
In closing, I would hope that in the short term the link roads from the Hunter Expressway get the upgrades they deserve and that the Hydro and Black Hill industrial sites get approved and we see job creating enterprises in the area.
I feel that the council is more interested in social and community issues and if it doesn’t change its attitude to economic development, ECONOMIC INERTIA will continue to PLAGUE Cessnock into the future.

ECONOMIC INERTIA PLAGUES CESSNOCK

After 9 years as an elected councillor on Cessnock City Council with a stated desire to see economic reform happen and jobs growth take Cessnock from one of the lowest Socio- Economic status (SEIFA INDEX) in Australia to one of the best has been shown to have got us nowhere. My dreams of an economic recovery have been dashed.
In the meantime (same period) we have witnessed exponential growth at Steel River Mayfield West, Beresfield and Thornton Industrial Estates, Rutherford and Anambah Industrial Estates in Maitland, while in Cessnock we have seen only two job creating businesses open on the Weston Industrial Estate and Alfabs Engineering an established business going from strength to strength.
Cessnock was one of the wealthiest coal producing areas in Australia and we are now witnessing the closure of the last remaining underground mines at Donaldson/Abel-Tasman and Yancoal’s Austar mine at Paxton gone, leaving the community with only one open  cut mine at Buchanan still operating.
On top of this we witnessed the closure of the Hydro Aluminium Smelter at Kurri Kurri in 2014 leaving an economic hole of some $50 million in wages to the Cessnock area and hundreds unemployed. Due in part to various political and industrial issues this plant closed many years before its use by date.
The 900 hectare Hunter Economic Zone was approved back in 2000 yet due to concerted efforts by the local Greens, NIMBY’s and INERTIA by council it has never got off the ground.
On the upside we saw the opening of the Hunter Expressway in March 2014 and finally the start of the new town Huntlee after 8 years being held up in the courts by Greens, NIMBY’s and INERTIA by council.
The Rosehill development at Millfield finally was approved and sold off, Wyndham Ridge at Greta also approved and is now sold off. We also saw the approval granted for Cliftleigh Meadows and Avery’s Rise in the Heddon Greta area.
We don’t lack the potential for jobs growth as our residential block sales attest but we need to get industrial land up and selling. The redevelopment of the Hydro Smelter site and Black Hill Industrial parks need to be fast tracked to create employment opportunities before anymore largescale residential land is released.
As I see it, all that the Cessnock LGA is becoming at present is a satellite suburb of Newcastle and the wider Hunter areas. There is little in the way of serious planning approvals being undertaken for industry and jobs attraction.
Both of the Cessnock LGA business districts, Cessnock and Kurri Kurri are under stress with no large anchor tenants to create strong retail activity and we are now witnessing what a one industry town is like when disaster hits, with the tourism sector ‘Wine Country’ on its knees due to the COVID epidemic.
In closing, I would hope that in the short term the link roads from the Hunter Expressway get the upgrades they deserve and that the Hydro and Black Hill industrial sites get approved.
The council is more interested in social and community issues and if it doesn’t change its attitude to economic development, ECONOMIC INERTIA will continue to PLAGUE Cessnock into the future.
Rod Doherty
19 August 2021

Kurri Kurri its History & its Future

The township of Kurri Kurri and the surrounding district was first established when coal was discovered at East Greta Junction now known as Gillieston Heights. In those early days at the end of the 19th Century the coal mine employees lived in very primitive conditions in villages surrounding the future township of Kurri Kurri.

In 1902 after considerable lobbying by the coal miners a permanent settlement was established. The first lands in Kurri Kurri were sold in 1903.

From its early establishment as a town the people of the community always struggled for an identity and to have control of their own destiny. In 1906 the town was handed over to the Tarro Shire and later became part of the Kearsley Shire, (The only Communist Council in the country) which later became Greater Cessnock City. During this period of destabilisation, the community suffered from discrimination and deprivation from all levels of government.

It was in this climate that Kurri Kurri business people established their Chamber in 1913, less than ten years after the establishment of the town out of a need to establish such basic needs as banking and phone services for the growing business district. The early business people were also concerned at the lack of support for the district at Local, State and Federal government level.

For many years the township suffered from a period of political agitation and posturing that saw the community used to promote the aspirations of the local politicians. Business Development lobbying has remained a key focus for the business people of the area since the town’s establishment.

Coal was the economic driver until the late 1960’s when mine closures such as those that were located in the area created high unemployment. When the ALCAN smelter arrived in 1969 it provided employment opportunities for some of the displaced workforce. During the late 70’s and early 90’s the textile industry also provided an income for the girls/women of the district, but this was short lived as the industry quickly moved offshore chasing cheaper labour.

In more recent times the business people had to lobby hard for the establishment of Weston Aluminium and Signode Strapping operations. Both of these businesses have brought moderate relief to our employment woes.

When the smelter shut down in 2012 it set back the community at least ten years. Now with the imminent announcement of the redevelopment of the smelter site and adjacent buffer zone into residential lands things will change for the better.

With this project we will see the commencement of serious economic development for the Kurri Kurri district as the town reinvents itself; and we will witness a future prosperity not seen since the establishment of the coalmines more than 100 years ago.

Council meetings

Council meeting rules
Over the eight and a half years that I have been on council we met twice a month with the exception of December and January
There was only one meeting in December and none during January, this represented 21 formal meetings
Council always moved that the business of council could still be carried out during the six-week break over the Christmas New Year period under delegated authority to the General Manager and Mayor
There were to be no major decisions regarding planning matters approved
Last year under health directions from the NSW Government during the Covid pandemic it was agreed to meet via Zoom and broadcast the council meetings on the council Face Book page
When council came back to a modified face to face meeting night in February it was agreed that we meet only one night a month. It was also agreed by all except one councillor that if a person was genuinely sick or unable to attend for some reason that they be allowed to participate via zoom.
Note: Under section 365 of the Act, councils are required to meet at least ten (10) times each year, each time in a different month unless the Minister for Local Government has approved a reduction in the number of times that a council is required to meet each year under section 365A.
These are the statutory meetings that councillors must attend unless they have given proper notice via an apology.
Other than this there are a number of working committees of council of which councillors attend. These include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander committee, Awards committee, Audit and Risk Committee, Roads Revue Committee, Traffic Committee, Strategic Property committee and Dollar for Dollar Committee. All councillors can attend these meetings.
Councillors have the opportunity to nominate which committees they want to be on, and all councillors are invited to be on and attend internal committees.
In addition to these formal committees the General Manager holds an Agenda briefing before each council meeting and invites councillors to this meeting and there are at least two additional briefing meetings during each month with the exception of December and January. While it is not compulsory for councillors to attend these briefings, it is in their best interests as information is relayed by council staff before it is moved to a full council meeting.
Outside of this there is Australia Day, Anzac Day, Reconciliation Week, Citizenship ceremonies and Academic Awards events that councillors can attend. Councillors also do workshops and councillor training during the year.
In summary councillors are required to do more than just attend One or Two formal council meetings per month.

Council meeting rules
Over the eight and a half years that I have been on council we met twice a month with the exception of December and January
There was only one meeting in December and none during January, this represented 21 formal meetings
Council always moved that the business of council could still be carried out during the six-week break over the Christmas New Year period under delegated authority to the General Manager and Mayor
There were to be no major decisions regarding planning matters approved
Last year under health directions from the NSW Government during the Covid pandemic it was agreed to meet via Zoom and broadcast the council meetings on the council Face Book page
When council came back to a modified face to face meeting night in February it was agreed that we meet only one night a month. It was also agreed by all except one councillor that if a person was genuinely sick or unable to attend for some reason that they be allowed to participate via zoom.
Note: Under section 365 of the Act, councils are required to meet at least ten (10) times each year, each time in a different month unless the Minister for Local Government has approved a reduction in the number of times that a council is required to meet each year under section 365A.
These are the statutory meetings that councillors must attend unless they have given proper notice via an apology.
Other than this there are a number of working committees of council of which councillors attend. These include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander committee, Awards committee, Audit and Risk Committee, Roads Revue Committee, Traffic Committee, Strategic Property committee and Dollar for Dollar Committee. All councillors can attend these meetings.
Councillors have the opportunity to nominate which committees they want to be on, and all councillors are invited to be on and attend internal committees.
In addition to these formal committees the General Manager holds an Agenda briefing before each council meeting and invites councillors to this meeting and there are at least two additional briefing meetings during each month with the exception of December and January. While it is not compulsory for councillors to attend these briefings, it is in their best interests as information is relayed by council staff before it is moved to a full council meeting.
Outside of this there is Australia Day, Anzac Day, Reconciliation Week, Citizenship ceremonies and Academic Awards events that councillors can attend. Councillors also do workshops and councillor training during the year.
In summary councillors are required to do more than just attend One or Two formal council meetings per month.

Council meeting rules
Over the eight and a half years that I have been on council we met twice a month with the exception of December and January
There was only one meeting in December and none during January, this represented 21 formal meetings
Council always moved that the business of council could still be carried out during the six-week break over the Christmas New Year period under delegated authority to the General Manager and Mayor
There were to be no major decisions regarding planning matters approved
Last year under health directions from the NSW Government during the Covid pandemic it was agreed to meet via Zoom and broadcast the council meetings on the council Face Book page
When council came back to a modified face to face meeting night in February it was agreed that we meet only one night a month. It was also agreed by all except one councillor that if a person was genuinely sick or unable to attend for some reason that they be allowed to participate via zoom.
Note: Under section 365 of the Act, councils are required to meet at least ten (10) times each year, each time in a different month unless the Minister for Local Government has approved a reduction in the number of times that a council is required to meet each year under section 365A.
These are the statutory meetings that councillors must attend unless they have given proper notice via an apology.
Other than this there are a number of working committees of council of which councillors attend. These include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander committee, Awards committee, Audit and Risk Committee, Roads Revue Committee, Traffic Committee, Strategic Property committee and Dollar for Dollar Committee. All councillors can attend these meetings.
Councillors have the opportunity to nominate which committees they want to be on, and all councillors are invited to be on and attend internal committees.
In addition to these formal committees the General Manager holds an Agenda briefing before each council meeting and invites councillors to this meeting and there are at least two additional briefing meetings during each month with the exception of December and January. While it is not compulsory for councillors to attend these briefings, it is in their best interests as information is relayed by council staff before it is moved to a full council meeting.
Outside of this there is Australia Day, Anzac Day, Reconciliation Week, Citizenship ceremonies and Academic Awards events that councillors can attend. Councillors also do workshops and councillor training during the year.
In summary councillors are required to do more than just attend One or Two formal council meetings per month.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Finally the Kurri Kurri end of the LGA is about to get some recognition

Going back to 2010, some 9 years ago Kurri Kurri business people and one Ward D Labor councilor raised concerns about the neglect and deteriation occurring in the Kurri Kurri CBD
Footpaths were constructed of various mediums including concrete, tar, pavers and in a couple of places in Barton Street they didn’t exist at all.
Council in its wisdom after many complaints about tripping hazards, tar sealed Barton Street footpath as a stop gap measure.
And then along came a project to study the Land Use Zoning and housing in and around Kurri Kurri. But the proposed study excluded the Hydro Smelter land, Gingers Lane land zoning, Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh residential areas. When the business people of Kurri Kurri raised these omissions they were told that to include these areas would make the study too broad! The study also included a separate strategic study of the Kurri Kurri CBD.
Now that both studies were under consideration and finally completed over the last year they were ready for grant applications, as there was no finance available in the Council Operational Plans so the work would rely on grants.
Thankfully the NSW Government issued a round of the Resources for Regions Grants for mining affected communities in late 2018. Council having completed their studies was in a position to apply for a grant for the Kurri Kurri CBD works. The application was for funding in excess of $3 million for stage one of the CBD works.
The Resources for Regions funding announcement is imminent and when announced work should get underway over the next 12 months. Thanks to the current State Government.
I ask what would you think should be the number one priorities?
Footpaths ripped up and new ones laid with a common theme throughout the CBD including the unmade sections in Barton Street?
The Lang and Barton Streets road surface ripped up and renewed as they are both in very poor condition?
Rotary Park public amenities brought up to 21st Century standards including a path down to the edge of Barton Street.
Rotary Park upgraded when the new Pit Horse Statue is installed?
Additional street trees and street furniture installed?
There is a lot of work to be undertaken and $3million won’t cover all the work, but a firm start on works will be welcome.

Council adopts LED street lighting technology

Cessnock Liberals support the introduction of LED street light technology.

Cessnock City Council adopted LED street lighting across the LGA as from the 17 of October council meeting and will progressively replace 2,013 street lights.
As far back as 2011 discussions were taking place on how to lower the council street lighting power costs. LED technology was in its infancy back then but the people who were part of the Kurri Kurri 2030 futures development committee recognized the need and placed it as one of their Top 10 priorities to have low energy lighting installed by the year 2030.
Over the ensuring years various organizations showed off their technology in Kurri Kurri and to council staff including the City Mayor.
Smaller communities across Australia and New Zealand began adopting the technology with instant savings on power and maintenance.
The small council district of Kaipara in NZ replaced 1400 street lights with LEDs resulting in a 70% saving on power and significant savings on maintenance
In WA, the Lighting the West project is a partnership between Wyndham City, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay to bring sustainable street lighting to the west.
In 2015 as part of the project, over 26,000 80W mercury vapour street lights have been changed to energy efficient technology across the municipalities. Across the four Councils, this will result in 176,117 tonnes reduction in equivalent carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years and a $1.4 million saving in 2015 alone.
The biggest LED street light replacement project is in NSW, Light Years Ahead, has come to an end with the last light installed in March 2016
Crews installed 13,951 LED street lights across Western Sydney – 951 extra lights than originally forecasted. Final reporting is underway and Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), who is coordinating the project, is investigating options for additional lights.
Nine Western Sydney councils have been working on this collaborative street lighting project since 2014. Councils involved in the project are Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Hills Shire, Holroyd, Liverpool, Parramatta and Penrith. The project is estimated to save the participating councils $20 million and 74,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years. The $20 million savings are significant as street lighting makes up around 55% of councils’ energy costs.

In Cessnock, Ausgrid owns and maintains 5,049 street lights within the Cessnock LGA for which Council pays maintenance and electricity costs. These lights include 2,013 pre 2009 lights on residential streets that can be cost effectively replaced by newer, more efficient and more reliable LED’s. The proposed street lighting replacement project has a positive payback with the overall project paying for itself in approximately 7 years. There are also positive environmental and community benefits from the project.

Cessnock wins with Government road funding

 

Since 2010 the Cessnock Local Government Area has received in excess of $60 million in road and bridges funding grants.

The first big grant was for $20 Million to rebuild Broke Road, McDonalds Road from Wine Country Drive to the intersection of Hermitage Road in Pokolbin. This has been topped up by a further $16 million to complete the Broke Road/Hermitage Road intersection and upgrade of Hermitage Road through the New England Highway at Belford. This road also includes a cycle way. This brings Wine Country road works to more than $36 million.

On top of this the State Government has allocated funding to upgrade feeder roads for the Hunter Expressway. Work has been undertaken on Lovedale Road and Buchanan Road. (While much more needs to be done on both these roads the funding is welcome).

Lemmings Corner on the old North Road south of Wollombi has been rebuilt for safer road use. This was under the Federal Government Black Spot program. Funding has also been provided for the rebuild of the intersection at Duffy Drive and Maitland Road Cessnock (yet to start).

Many new bridges have been rebuilt due to funding from the Country Bridge Renewal scheme. These include Milgang Bridge at Ellalong, Vermont Bridge at Mulbring, Frame Drive Bridge, Lomas Lane, Crawford Bridge, Congewai, Watagan Creek, Paynes Crossing, Murrays Run and many more.

Forster’s Bridge on Sandy Creek Road is to be replaced with Government money ($2 Million) and the latest announcement of a $4.45 million grant to upgrade Frame Drive adds to the funding from the current State Government and Federal Government.

And further to this there is $17 million in the pipeline to upgrade Testers Hollow to increase the flood threshold of this road.

This all from the Coalition Government into safe Labor seats.

Rod to stand for Mayor

Liberals embrace concerns and aspirations of residents
Mayoral candidate for Cessnock City Council, Councillor Rod Doherty, today announced the 12 candidates pre-selected to contest elections for the four Wards on Saturday, September 10.
Liberal Party candidates in Ward A are Paul Dunn, Karen Jackson and Robyn Strengers; representatives in Ward B are Jacqui LaFrance, Michael Gane and John McKendry; candidates in Ward C are John Fagg, Paul Monforte and Harry Slade; with Cr Doherty heading the group in Ward D also consisting of Carol Doherty and Maureen King.
Cr Doherty said he was pleased with the passion and diversity of the Liberal team.
“Our candidates represent the many and varied thoughts and aspirations of the community,” he said.
“Cessnock has boundless opportunities that need to be tapped and promoted. We are a growing city with all of the pains and expectations that go with growth.
“Appropriate planning, community involvement and listening is paramount to good leadership and we will consider all input from residents.
“I am passionate about the future of this community from job creation through to personal safety.
With strong leadership from our team we will see our community prosper.”
For more information or additional comment, please contact Bryce Gibson 0422 227 668 or Rod Doherty 0409 448 191

My first 200 days

Last August when I decided to run as a Liberal candidate for election to Cessnock City Council little did I realize the enormity of the task that lay ahead.

It is now some 200 days since the September 2012 Election and to say that four Liberals were to be elected to Cessnock City Council would have been laughable in the past.

The council elections are now behind us and the hard work and challenges over the next 4 years is in front of the elected council.

Some local media have reported that the council has been dysfunctional and that there are still issues that we face into the future. I say that the past is behind us and we can look forward to the future where there is cooperation between council staff and the elected council to drive economic development and future prosperity for the shire.

Cessnock is experiencing some of the worst unemployment in decades with youth and mature aged workers having a hard time finding local work. This is affecting retail confidence and consumer confidence.

Since the election there have been some very positive moves to get things underway. Firstly there will be the Bunning’s development which will employ additional people. Then there is the Vintage Balance Lands and Golden Bear that have been referred to the State Government for consideration and recently the Avery’s Village development in Heddon Greta. Once these are approved they will provide much needed employment in the housing construction industry.

We are still awaiting the Huntlee new town approval but with the establishment of the Huntlee reference group things are moving in the right direction. We are also awaiting positive decisions on the Golden Bear resort and the (HEZ) Hunter Economic Zone at Kurri Kurri.

The closure of the Kurri Kurri Smelter late last year was a significant blow to the local economy both in jobs and a $50 million income lost, but from the ashes of this very poor decision is the opportunity that the site of some 1,800 hectares could be rezoned for industry, commerce and residential development.

We have the completion of the Hunter Expressway coming up later in the year and the impending announcement of a new Hunter hospital imminent both significant economic drivers.

I would like to thank my helpers at last year’s election and the many people who supported my election to council.

As a Ward D councilor I can assure residents that I will continue to represent your best interests to ensure that council sets a direction that is suitable to all.

Community engagement poor

After attending four community meetings over the past two weeks representing Cessnock City Council constituents of Ward D and C I am amazed at the lack of support from the community.
 
Cessnock City Council is attempting to engage the community in the future direction of the LGA both face to face and via online surveys on the council website.
 
Meeting attendances where I have been are, Branxton 8, Kurri Kurri 8 and 4, Lovedale 8 and at Branxton 21st February 3.
 
The meetings being conducted are important to the city’s future covering such things as Rates and Roads, economic development and jobs and what people feel are important issues facing them.
 
While the turnout at these meetings has been less than favourable people can still have their say via the online surveys on the council website. The more people complete these surveys the better the picture will be for council in directing its efforts.