Dubbo not in strife

COMMUNITY leaders in Dubbo have taken a projected five-year delay in the launch of the Cobbora coal mine on the chin, insisting the city can stand on its own two feet.

Mayor Mathew Dickerson and Dubbo Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Sandy Dunshea yesterday expressed disappointment the state government project was on the backburner because of a "potential loss" to NSW taxpayers of $1.5 billion to take it to production.

But they have testified to the city's capabilities and resourcefulness, with or without a new mine on the horizon.

Cr Dickerson, briefed by Dubbo MP Troy Grant yesterday morning, released a statement at lunchtime that "reassured residents and investors" the city's economy would continue to "thrive" despite development delays at the mine that's yet to be built.

He said Dubbo could expect continued and steady economic growth, before harking back to the remarks of visitors.

"Visiting property investment specialist Margaret Lomas recently pointed out that Dubbo is continuing to grow and thrive, even without the presence of major mining operations in close proximity," Cr Dickerson said.

"Earlier this year, renowned demographer Bernard Salt highlighted that Dubbo's long-time position as a major transport, retail and service centre has seen it outperform many other regional areas in terms of both population growth and economic development."

The mayor said Dubbo's economy boasted 16 different industries and any new project should be viewed as "adding to the city's growth, rather than sustaining it".

Cr Dickerson reported that the city was already engaged with the mining industry at a commercial level.

"Local businesses have already been tapping into opportunities presented by the three operational mines that lie within a 100-kilometre radius of the city and the further nine mines in operation throughout the catchment region, such as those at Cobar, Parkes and Mudgee," he said.

The mayor said the potential economic injection from Cobbora coal mine would "most certainly be welcome" when the project was approved.

“In the meantime, Dubbo City Council and its economic development branch remain focused on pursuing sustainable business growth through business retention, expansion, investment and attraction activities,” he said.

The mayor promised that the council would continue to work closely with the NSW government and lobby for improved services and business opportunities for Dubbo.

Mr Dunshea told the Daily Liberal of the chamber’s alarm at hearing that the mine would not be developed in the short term.

“We are bitterly disappointed at the decision to put the project on hold for up to five years,” he said.

“But we know that the people of Dubbo are resilient and will move on.”

Mr Dunshea said Treasurer Mike Baird’s warning of a looming financial disaster had made the government’s stance easier to accept.

“We don’t want an impost or blowout of $1.5 billion to the state government,” the chamber president said.

“Unfortunately, it was a decision that had to be made.”

Dubbo MP Troy Grant reiterated yesterday his disappointment at the turn of events and a commitment to organise a meeting with key stakeholders in Dubbo to provide a “full explanation” and answer questions.

Earlier this week Mr Baird advised of investigations into alternative sources of coal to meet a contractual obligation made by the former state government for the Cobbora mine to supply coal to power generators by the start of 2015/2016.

“The Labor government’s decision to invest in a coal mine created significant risks and massive liabilities for the state,” he said.

“Indeed the expert advisors put the potential loss to the state currently at about $1.5 billion for the Cobbora transaction.”

Mr Grant has told of the former government agreeing to sell “high volumes” of Cobbora coal at “low prices, and a 25 per cent downturn in coal commodity prices.

The NSW government announced this week that it would proceed with its plan to sell the state’s generators, and sell or lease the Cobbora mine development.

Mr Grant reports that the government is “still committed to the project” that he believes will be on hold for about five years.

kim.bartley@ruralpress.com

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