Federal Member for Calare Andrew Gee and State Member Paul Toole announced a $350,000 boost to blast furnace funding on Tuesday, April 11.
The announcement coincides with Lithgow City Council’s award of a $1.1 million tender to transform Lithgow’s iconic ruin into a fully functional tourist and cultural destination.
“This is three tiers of government working together on a project,” Mr Gee MP said.
“Lithgow is ideally places for tourism in this region. It is the gateway to the Central West.
“This was Australia’s first iron foundry. It’s a unique tourist attraction. There is nothing like it in the whole of NSW, and even in the whole of Australia,” Mr Toole said.
So far council has accumulated $2 million to go towards the furnace, $1.3 million of which is from state and federal government resources.
The first stage of developments included in the current tender involves lighting installations, a boardwalk through the furnace structure, re-paving of the car park and interpretive signs.
“We are aiming to have stage one completed by November this year,” manager of community & culture at Lithgow City Council Matthew Johnson said.
“It’s about making it safe and enjoyable for everyone while having as little impact on the site itself.”
Plans to utilise the site for Ironfest events in 2018 are already in motion.
Mr Toole reiterated the need to link the site to other tourism draw cards nearby.
“This is going to become a popular cultural precinct with Lake Pillans and Eskbank House just down the road. The furnace will promote and create further opportunities for the area.
“It’s all about bringing more people into Lithgow, boosting the economy and local jobs. Tourism is worth billions of dollars in this state and when we look at communities like Lithgow it is worth millions of dollars.”
Other future plans for the site mentioned during Monday’s announcement were the installation of a performance stage and connecting the site to the State Mine Museum by railway.
Mayor Stephen Lesslie said the enduring presence of the blast furnace was a town achievement.
“There were times when people of the town were a bit embarrassed about this site. But they fought hard to keep it because they could see the potential. It took a long time but their vision was right. Now the people of Lithgow have really embraced it.
“Even in the condition it is in now a lot of people turn up and they walk through quietly and marvel at the size of it.”