Hunter Economic Zone under threat: mayor
Cessnock is turning into an anti environment Council. The Mayor has said he is worried that the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater will stop development occurring in the HEZ. Shouldn’t we be concerned about trying to keep the Regent Honeyeater from becoming extinct and approving development where it will not have such a harmful effect on the environment?
By DAMON CRONSHAW Cessnock Reporter
July 17, 2013, 10:43 p.m.
HOPES of reviving the contentious Hunter Economic Zone are under increasing threat from green tape, Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent says.
Officials and business people who aim to jump-start the site’s flagging fortunes met there yesterday to discuss its future.
The state government once predicted the 870-hectare site would be the biggest employment development in the state, providing more than 10,000 jobs and attracting $2 billion in investment.
But in the decade since it was rezoned for industrial uses, it has been plagued by financial collapse, controversy over political donations, a parliamentary inquiry and environmental battles.
The site, near Kurri Kurri, Weston and Pelaw Main, has only two businesses on it, council officials said.
Environmentalists say it has national environmental significance and should be protected.
Cessnock councillors considered last night terms of reference for a Lower Hunter Strategic Assessment, which the state and federal governments are doing.
It will examine environmental and socioeconomic factors in Newcastle, Maitland, Cessnock, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens.
Cr Pynsent (Labor) feared the assessment could hamper the Hunter Economic Zone.
“We’ve got a responsibility to supply employment land and unless environmental issues can be sorted it will stop us progressing,” Cr Pynsent said.
Cr James Ryan (Greens) said the matter raised the question of whether the council wanted to protect the environment or not.
“If you’re not willing to engage in a proper assessment of environmental values, you’re continuing the bad old days where developers’ interests are put ahead of the community and environment,” Cr Ryan said.
Cr Ryan said the Hunter Economic Zone was a “white elephant” and “developers have voted with their feet to stay away from it”.
Cr Rod Doherty (Liberal), the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber president, was concerned several environmental assessments of land in the region were appearing.
Cr Doherty said the assessments could hamper plans for the Hunter Economic Zone and moves to redevelop part of the 2000-hectare Hydro Aluminium site at Kurri.
If biodiversity was to be protected it should not be at the expense of land already zoned, he said.