By Councillor Maree Statham, Mayor
It has been a difficult period for the Lithgow community with the economy tightening and especially with world coal prices dropping. This has unfortunately led to a large number of jobs being lost from the Lithgow area, not the least of which has been the announcement about the Angus Place Colliery.
We all know that the Lithgow area has had a long and very proud industrial and manufacturing history particularly in power generation and coal mining. As well as supporting the future of these industries we also need to explore other opportunities to diversify the economic base by engaging niche market sectors to expand upon and support other developments. Diversification not only builds economic growth, but also enhances the liveability of the area ensuring Lithgow continues to be a place where people want to live, work, visit and invest.
Successive councils of Lithgow, and certainly the current Council, have worked hard to keep Lithgow at the forefront of business and industry encouraging diversification and improvement in the local area. There have been some successful and perhaps some unsuccessful attempts to improve our economy.
Lithgow has been for a long time a significant coal producing area. This is obviously a finite resource, but there is still, in Council’s view, many more years yet left in this industry. For this reason Lithgow Council is a strong supporter of the Coal Mining industry, and I truly expect this to remain so. There are going to be ongoing challenges with this but, if we stick together I am sure that we can overcome the challenges that may be put in our way.
Having said this we still need to look to the diversification of our economy. Again successive councils have been working hard in this area. Through this diversification there have been some wonderful opportunities evolve.
Over the years the Lithgow community has been very resilient, this is not the first time that we have seen mine closures and job losses in the area. There have been many mines closed over decades and we have seen other significant job losses such as the closure of the Berlei factory in the late 1990’s and the downsizing of the Small Arms Factory. There have also been other wonderful enterprises come to the area including the formation of Westfund, now a very significant employer in the area, Ferrero establishing their factory here, plus the opening of two universities; Notre Dame and the University of Western Sydney. We must also remember the opening of the State Office building housing the Police Assistance Line (PAL) and State Debt Recovery and the recent expansion of these with an additional 55 plus jobs created. Not to forget the development of the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa making the Lithgow area a destination for many.
Added to this there have been other improvements, which in themselves may not be perceived to be that significant, including drought proofing the urban areas with the opening of the upgraded Clarence Water Transfer Scheme as well as the major upgrades to two of our three sewerage treatment plants and the third currently being planned. These are items of infrastructure that do help with growth in the area rather than restricting it.
Council has been helping in other ways as well hosting workshops and training sessions for retailers and developing the CBD revitalisation plan. We have worked on some extra ordinary events such as Lithglo and Halloween. Both of these events have been not only well received in our community they have also been great attractions for people outside of our area.
Significant upgrades to our sporting infrastructure have improved the liveability of the area. The most significant being the indoor aquatic centre complex. Improvements to our public halls and recreational facilities have been made not just by this Council but successive councils over the years.
Finally Council is awaiting the finalisation of the new Local Environmental Plan which will see the creation of additional zones specifically designated areas that will allow the establishment of business and industry. There is still yet further work to be done in relation to this and one such major area is the review of our rural lands where we will be looking to open up further areas for rural residential development.
Following a meeting of Council, two Taskforces are being established to look at the employment issue in the Local Government Area. One of these is in relation to mining and the other in relation to business.
We do not believe that we have all the answers so Council is now looking for the community to assist in these troubled times and provide suggestions.
A Facebook site has been established to seek community input. www.facebook.com/LithgowOurPlaceOurFuture. I would ask that people provide their suggestions on this site. For those that do not have access to a computer we would still appreciate suggestions in the old letter format. Please take your time to provide something positive to assist our area so we can work together on Lithgow; Our Place, Our Future.