Cessnock Council: Enemy of the Environment
- Cessnock Councillor Jeff Maybury outside the Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ), the site of a proposed urban development.
CHEAP housing, an attractive setting and a high-profile wine district give the Coalfields a competitive edge in the push for economic investment, a Cessnock City Council report says.
Weaknesses include poor main roads, limited industrial land and a ‘‘negative perception’’ of the area.
These contrasting elements were highlighted in the council’s draft economic development strategy, which councillors voted yesterday to publicly exhibit.
Another disadvantage was that the controversial Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ) was ‘‘not development-ready, with environmental issues still to be resolved’’, the draft strategy said.
Despite that, councillors voted 8-2 in a separate decision to approve a steel fabrication workshop in the zone at Weston, which would employ up to 55 people.
ALP mayor Bob Pynsent said it was a ‘‘critical decision’’ for the future of the zone, but Greens Cr James Ryan said it was a ‘‘shocking decision’’ and the council would be ‘‘seen as the enemy of the environment’’.
Council staff had recommended refusal, saying it would have ‘‘a significant effect on threatened species or their habitats’’.
ALP Cr Morgan Campbell accused Cr Ryan of ‘‘lobbing bombs at the Labor Party’’, claiming he ‘‘seems uninterested in the future of this area and employment’’.
Cr Ryan said the industrial estate was an ‘‘outdated vision’’ and the council should be attracting IT entrepreneurs, rather than ‘‘thinking the blue-collar manufacturing industry will save us like in the ’50s and ’60s’’.
The workshop will be among only a handful of businesses established in the zone in the decade since it was rezoned for industrial uses.
The state government once predicted the 870-hectare site would provide more than 10,000 jobs and attract $2billion in investment, but it had been plagued by financial collapse, a political donations controversy, a parliamentary inquiry and environmental battles.