Hydro housing plan to create 5000 jobs: poll
By Donna Sharpe || 19 November, 2015
MORE than 5000 jobs and 5300 homes sites are tipped to be created if the State Government approves a planning proposal for the 1900 hectare Hydro aluminium smelter site at Kurri.
Cessnock City Council voted this week to forward the proposal to the Department of Planning and Environment to rezone land at Loxford for employment, residential, rural and environmental use.
If approved, the site would accommodate heavy and light industries, a neighbourhood centre, a new residential suburb, public recreation and a business hub on land which falls in both Cessnock and Maitland local government areas.
The 43-year-old aluminium plant was decommissioned in October 2012 and had, in its heyday, employed 930 on site and 1500 external contractors.
Its closure ripped the economic heart out of Kurri and also affected other communities like Maitland, Cessnock and Singleton.
When the smelter closed, a plan was put in place by Cessnock council to work closely with the State Government to bring new industry to the area for future employment opportunities.
“Hydro has been a long standing economic driver and employer within the community and the proposed employment land provides long term replacement of job losses that resulted from the closure,” a council planning report said.
“The residential aspects of the planning proposal also provide and opportunity to satisfy council’s obligations in projected new release housing as identified in the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy.”
The development has the potential to increase the local residential population by 6000.
In consultation with Maitland City Council and the proponent, Cessnock council will investigate the likely scope of developer contributions for matters including community infrastructure, transport and drainage provisions and social infrastructure.
Former Hydro employee and Cessnock councillor Ian Olsen said the proposal is full of positives for the whole Lower Hunter.
“The location couldn’t be better with the Hunter Expressway at its doorstep,” he said.
“This is going to be so much better than HEZ (Hunter Economic Zone) and now it’s just a matter of luring the right industries.”
However Cr Olsen said there could be an issue with 14 privately-owned properties, the majority of them rural, which either sit within or alongside the Hydro boundaries.
“The proposal is for these properties to be rezoned but each of the owners will have the chance to have their say,” he said.
Greens councillor James Ryan was the council’s lone objector describing the proposal as a “greedy land grab” by Hydro.He said the site has 60 hectares of existing industrial footprint which should be the only land used for industrial purposes.
“What is proposed is six times that amount of development which is massively expanding that footprint,” Cr Ryan said.
“Land outside that 60 hectares was protected but they’re not proposing to protect that anymore and we will instead be getting a massive increase of residential and industrial development,” he said.
Cr Ryan was critical of the council only going on the developer’s environmental assessment and not commissioning an independent environmental report of its own.
Development big ‘opportunity’ for Kurri
KURRI Business Chamber president, Cessnock councillor and smelter employee of 18 years, Rod Doherty, said the smelter’s closure and the recent downturn in the mining industry has been a “kick in the guts” for the Coalfields but said the phoenix will now rise from the ashes.
“It really hurt our economy but this town has always been resilient and we have been through worst setbacks,” Mr Doherty said.
Mr Doherty said with the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the site up to 5000 jobs could be created.
“When you look at the likes of Beresfield and Thornton industrial estates 5000 jobs were created down there and if the right kind of industries are attracted to Kurri it will mean significant employment opportunities,” Mr Doherty said.
He said the plan is to attract “high tech” industries to the area and a rail link to the site could mean railway maintenance or support industries.
“This is an opportunity for bigger and better things for Kurri, a much brighter future for the town,” Mr Doherty said.
“It could be five years before we see anything happening but as we speak workers are pulling down internal features in the smelter,” he said.
Concerns had been raised about site contamination but Mr Doherty said this was a scare campaign.
“I don’t have a problem with this and I don’t believe the site is heavily contaminated.
“There are plans to recycle some of the spent potlining on the site,” he said.
“When you look at Clyde refinery in Sydney, Pasminco at Lake Macquarie and BHP in Newcastle the Kurri site is quite small.
“It’s a 43-year-old plant and stopped putting waste on the stockpile in 1995.”
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