New South Wales One Nation leader Mark Latham visited Lithgow on Friday, January 11 to join and discuss the ongoing debate of the future of the Wallerawang Power Station.
Currently owned by EnergyAustralia, the company seek to demolish the infrastructure on the site, but were still willing to negotiate with those business parties interested.
Mr Latham met with potential investors, Real Axis to discuss their proposal in revitalising the Wallerawang site into a high tech business park and freight hub.
Mr Latham said he was surprised to hear there was a stalemate where the NSW Government had not been able to progress the investment opportunity.
“The investors are talking about five or six major companies locating there as part of a business park, a freight hub, with potentially 300 plus jobs for Lithgow, so why wouldn’t that be going ahead?,” he said.
He also said that Real Axis have had the proposal on the table of Government for a while and were frustrated nothing had been done about it when the proposal was quite simple.
“Apparently in the clause in which this side has gone to EnergyAustralia, taxpayers would also have to fund the demolition of the buildings, with this proposal you can save the taxpayers money by not demolishing the buildings and putting it out for expressions of interest,” he said.
Mr Latham also said perhaps a stalemate had been made due to the election period but said that would finish on March 23.
“Hopefully after the election period we can get something going for employment creation in Lithgow and surrounding areas.
“I think it’s important Liberal win this next election to make sure that projects like this can go ahead,” he said.
He also said he was disappointed to hear the project had been on pause with Lithgow making an economic transition and having high unemployment youth issues.
“I mean an area, a town like Lithgow which has obviously gone through economic adjustment issues this [the proposal] should be something Government grabs with both hands and tries to promote, instead of having frustrated investors,” he said.
Mr Latham said EnergyAustralia could transfer the land back to the Government and onto the investors, to get the park going for vital job creating. Real Axis managing director David Ryan said the company presented the proposal to Council initially to gain their support.
“Real Axis has had numerous discussions, I’ve met personally with the treasurer and have had no response, we’ve met with local member Paul Toole, the head of regional infrastructure for the Premier and Cabinet and again the only political body that’s shown support is Lithgow Council.”
“We’ve got very good support from the Shooters and Fishers party, we’ve had initial discussions from Labor and they appear supportive and obviously we’ve heard from Mark today, so it just seems the inherit Government we’re not getting answers,” he said.
Mr Ryan also said whether it was Real Axis or another party, Council were very supportive in retaining the infrastructure.
“If the infrastructure’s demolished then no one is gonna buy the site, EnergyAustralia went to the market about 18 months ago and there was no party willing to take the whole site,” he said.
According to Mr Ryan EnergyAustralia may own the land but do not currently have a development application approval to commence demolition.
“The last feedback we heard from them [EnergyAustralia] was that they were going to commence demolition, now we’ve got a Council that’s supportive, they don’t want to see demolition on the site,” he said.
Mr Ryan also said Real Axis aimed to create a point of difference for Lithgow, to give it some re-invigoration.
“When you look around the last few years the town has had bad news after bad news. Its had the university announce that it’s closing down campus, and Westpac pull out with its last branch in Lithgow, so this proposal is about bringing jobs and investment back to Lithgow,” he said.
“There is a uniqueness to this site that will give Lithgow a point of difference, but if that infrastructure is demolished you can kiss that opportunity goodbye,” he said.
Lithgow City Council mayor Ray Thompson said for some months the Council had been trying to push and find out why there was a demolition order on the site.
“We want to know why the Government would want to spend so much money and why people are being so negative to what we see as a very positive proposal and lots of jobs for the town,” he said.
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