17 December 2020
In an unforgettable year of trials and challenges, the last few weeks of 2020 have also set the course for plenty of positivity to launch into the new year, not least a $4,571,283 Christmas present to deliver 15 projects across our local government area under the NSW Government’s Resources for Regions program, and the launch of a new initiative – the Hunter 2050 Foundation – to drive a regional focus for economic diversity and development.
This year has given us plenty of time to reflect on what’s really important to each of us on a personal level, but it also presented a unique opportunity to stand back and take a fresh look at the needs of our community, and particularly our economy.
Pandemic aside, scheduled shutdowns of power stations and changes to thermal coal mining across the Hunter Region will have impacts in Singleton. Having said that, it’s a simple fact that the mining industry will not shut down tomorrow and indeed the NSW Government’s Future of Coal Statement, unveiled earlier this year, aims to improve certainty around coal mining to continue mining operations in NSW.
To my mind, the conversation is not about replacing coal in Singleton but broadening opportunities to co-exist with mining in the short- to medium-term, and to help to bolster our economy in the longer-term if and when the global demand for coal decreases.
That’s why Singleton, along with other Hunter councils as part of the the Hunter Joint Organisation, is working to establish the Hunter 2050 Foundation to help us get on the front foot in preparedness for whatever changes – and the impacts that result – come our way.
The Hunter 2050 Foundation will ramp up new industries and businesses to create new opportunities for our region, supporting our communities to thrive when traditional industries are waning. That is the very definition of resilience, and a solution we can put into place now to address the issues of the future – not just for the Hunter, but the whole country.
But we need a $15 million investment to establish this Foundation, and to get it working for our local industries and businesses. With the backing of all Hunter councils, one of the biggest priorities for 2021 will be advocating for the support we need to make it a reality.
We’ve already seen in Singleton what we can achieve when we all work together, particularly with industries and other levels of government.
As a case in point, Council’s $2 million Community Support Package is now in the rebuild phase, offering assistance to everyone in our community adversely financially affected by bushfire and COVID-19 through programs run in partnership with BHP and the Singleton Business Chamber. We also continue to build on our Community Economic Development Fund to have resources at the ready for what other challenges might come our way in the future.
We can’t forget either that we recorded a significant tick on our Advocacy Agenda, with changes to the administration of the NSW Government’s Resources for Regions program to tie the amount available for each region to the value of mining royalties.
With the announcement of 15 successful projects, it’s a positive way to mark the end of 2020 and launch into 2021 with plenty of optimism.
It has been an unusual year, and I’m proud of the way our community banded together – despite social distancing – and supported each other through one of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced. I wish you and your family a safe and happy Christmas and look forward to what we’ll achieve in 2021.
Cr Sue Moore
Mayor of Singleton