Editorial – August 8, 2014
Gunnedah is at a crossroads.
The town that’s going places has now gone places and is standing at the junction, wondering which direction to turn.
While some other towns are wishing they had rich natural resources, our shire is torn between the riches above and those beneath the ground, and it is aching with the growing pains.
The burgeoning mining industry in this shire and the ones beyond it has brought new opportunities, new challenges, new faces, new heartbreaks and new hopes.
For some it has meant a job, a house, money for the farm, customers in the shop, business on the books and money for public projects.
For others, it has meant fear over properties that have been passed down through generations, trucks on the road, high rents and mines for neighbours.
But along with all the issues that come with the mining industry, is the issue of growth.
With growth comes necessary upgrades to highways – with their own issues such as whether the Visitor Information Centre should be located along the highways.
It also brings a growth in other industries. The network is here, the people are here, the land is here, and the industries want to be here.
At yesterday’s Gunnedah Shire Council planning, environment and development committee meeting, council considered an application for a grain processing plant on Marys Mount Road.
This 24-hour operation has local residents concerned.
“It is like council is preferencing big business over the current residents,” one neighbour of the site said.
In the meeting last night, council noted a number of potential “game changers” that will impact on Gunnedah and how it could develop over the next decade.
• Development of the Maules Creek Coal Project near Boggabri.
• Potential determination of the proposed Shenhua Watermark Coal Project near Breeza.
• Imminent determination of the Vickery Coal Project north west of Gunnedah.
• Establishment of a second rail overpass at Gunnedah. Realignment of the state highway and regional road network within the Gunnedah urban area.
• Interest from major new business in establishing in Gunnedah, and
• Increase in demand for housing and accommodation.
All of these things spell progress for the shire, but they also spell out the need for a great deal of caution.
To preserve our country way of life and our farming base, each of these things needs to be looked at in light of where they are taking us.
Council may not have the power to say yes or no to many of these things, but here is a strong word of caution that each application, each new move, needs to be looked at as part of the big picture.
We are changing, but this change can be managed to a degree.
Gunnedah needs leadership to protect and nurture the community, to deal with the substantial challenges and opportunities we face, and to make informed, and considered, decisions.
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