Kurri Kurri is in a position to bounce back from tough economic times and prosper in the future, a local development forum heard on Monday.
Paterson MP Meryl Swanson hosted the forum of 25 business and community leaders at Kurri Kurri Business Enterprise Centre.
Ms Swanson said it was a good first step in getting Kurri “back on the map”.
Shadow minister for infrastructure Anthony Albanese was a special guest at the forum, and urged the region to make the most of the Hunter Expressway.
He said he was pleased to see evidence-based planning, and the progress being made in Kurri Kurri was encouraging.
“It’s clear that there’s a common interest between Cessnock City Council, local businesses and state and federal members about the direction forward,” he said.
Ms Swanson said she believed a lot had been achieved at the forum just in the sharing of information.
“It’s clear we are not at zero level. The fact that there is a Kurri strategy being done by Cessnock Council, and that Kurri has been identified as a strategic town in the NSW Government’s Hunter Region plan is really important,” she said.
“We have to get Kurri back on the map, figuratively and literally. We have to create jobs and get people energised.
“Kurri was a booming town in the 1950s and I’d like to see it become a booming town again.”
‘Shop local’ was a theme throughout the forum.
Business Enterprise Centre CEO and Kurri District Business Chamber president Kerry Hallett told the forum the town had been doing it tough since the closure of the Hydro aluminium smelter and the mining downtown, with unemployment at 9.5 percent.
“But we will bounce back. It’s important that forums like this are held which put the focus on Kurri, because the focus is always on Newcastle and the Upper Hunter, and we are stuck here in the middle,” Ms Hallett said.
Cessnock City Council economic development manager Jane Holdsworth said the council had worked to identify five growth areas for business – agribusiness and research; energy; environment; technology; and services in education, health and tourism, and identified the Hydro redevelopment plans as “a gift from God”.
Weston Aluminium managing director Garbis Simonian said he was pleased to have the chance to talk to Ms Swanson and Mr Albanese.
“It is a great step forward to have the opportunity for the grassroots and the people to be heard by our politicians,” Mr Simonian said.
Council’s draft Kurri Kurri District Strategy will be finalised early next year.
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