Mayor Des Kennedy will speak against The Mac Service Group’s plans for a 400-unit workers’ village next month when the controversial project goes to the Joint Regional Planning Panel.
Cr Kennedy will tell the JRPP meeting on June 14 that a workers’ village on the outskirts of Gulgong would be devastating for the town and socially divisive for the region while offering few economic benefits.
“Gulgong is a thriving country town with an exceptional character and a lot of Australian history, as the childhood home of Henry Lawson,” he said.
“This would change the face of Gulgong forever.”
Cr Kennedy said while temporary workers’ villages had a role to play in housing fly-fly-out (FIFO) workers in remote locations such as the Pilbara and remote Queensland, this was not the case in the Mid-Western Region.
“There is adequate land to accommodate the growth in residential housing both in Gulgong and Mudgee.”
Cr Kennedy said council saw a need for short-term accommodation during construction of major projects, but wanted permanent mine workers to live locally and be part of the community.
He said the reputation of a temporary workers’ village – which despite the name could have a lifespan of up to 30 years – would devalue property in Gulgong.
Cr Kennedy will argue that FIFO and drive-in-drive-out (DIDO) employment is environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable.
FIFO/DIDO workers would take their wages back to the community where they or their families lived, and work schedules and the standard of facilities available in the village meant little money would be spent in local towns, he said.
Although The Mac has promised employment for local people and suppliers, Cr Kennedy said the reality was that many small businesses did not have the capacity to do significant work for major projects, and the local workforce was already constrained by a shortage of skilled labour.
Mid-Western Regional Council will consider its formal submission to the JRPP on The Mac Gulgong at its meeting next week.
The submission is expected to object to the proposal on a number of grounds, including that it is inconsistent with State and local strategic land use plans and council’s own development control plan (DCP) and interim Local Environment Plan (LEP), which prohibit temporary workers villages in rural zones and restrict them to within five kilometres of mines or other major project sites.
Council’s submission is also expected to argue the project would have unacceptable impacts on local infrastructure and services, such as health, police, water and sewerage treatment.
Cr Kennedy said council had received legal advice confirming The Mac Gulgong was not permissible under council’s LEPs.
He predicted the Gulgong community would unite and fight strongly against The Mac Gulgong if the project were approved.
“Remember, more than 3000 people rallied against the closure of the hospital in 2010,” he said.
More than 400 submissions were made relating to The Mac Gulgong development application, most opposing the project.