“Affordability, liveability and centrality” makes the Cessnock local government area an ideal spot for a government agency, mayor Bob Pynsent told the Senate committee into the location of corporate Commonwealth entities on Friday.
The council was invited to address the Senate’s Finance and Public Administration References Committee, which is examining the operation, effectiveness and consequences of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Order.
While acknowledging that the inquiry is specifically about the policy order being used to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), Cr Pynsent said Cessnock would welcome any agencies that can be relocated without “adversely impacting their capacity to operate effectively”.
Cr Pynsent said the Cessnock LGA offers something “unique and incomparable” to its metropolitan counterparts.
“We are located in the Hunter Region, which is home to Australia’s largest regional economy. We have the propensity to absorb population and economic growth,” he said.
“We have affordable land for growing business and residential demand. Kurri Kurri and Cessnock are strategically located within two hours driving distance to Sydney and 45 minutes to Newcastle its port and airport.”
Cr Pynsent said a move to decentralise government entities is an opportunity for the Federal Government to create major employment and provide regional economic diversification.
“While Cessnock is proud of its mining legacy we have certainly had to be resilient. The Cessnock local economy has undergone a structural adjustment with our transition to a visitor economy however this has not been without hardship,” he said.
He said while Cessnock would not fit the criteria set out for the relocation of government offices as it is not located within 10 kilometres of a university, the University of Newcastle is just a short trip down the Hunter Expressway.
He said today’s technology means universities are no longer constrained by physical locality.
“We live in the digital age, our connectedness has never been better, our ability to communicate is diverse,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to provide sustainable long term economic resilience and productivity to regional Australia,” he said.
“We have an opportunity to harness the potential of our regional communities and most importantly we have the opportunity to redress regional imbalances and disparities afforded to major cities.”
Cr Pynsent said the relocation of a government entity to Cessnock could bring 200-300 jobs to the city.
“It would make a huge difference here,” he said.
Orange City Council, Bega Valley Shire Council and the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils also addressed the Senate committee on Friday.