Cessnock Electorate Infrastructure

I speak about two important infrastructure needs in the Cessnock electorate, particularly around traditional old mining villages North Rothbury, Greta and Branxton and, of course, Cessnock itself. North Rothbury is a small traditional village of around 200 residential lots situated essentially on its own between Cessnock and Branxton, about a kilometre south of Branxton. Of course, Branxton is fully connected to the sewer after a massive upgrade at the treatment plant about four years ago. In talking about unsexy government spending, money spent on sewerage and treatment works is incredibly important but not sexy. This week we were reminded at the memorial service for Gough Whitlam that one of the many great things he did was to have sewerage provided to the people of Western Sydney. Indeed, I ask for and seek support from the Minister to provide sewerage services to the people of North Rothbury.

As I have stated, North Rothbury is situated about a kilometre to the south of Branxton, yet that one-kilometre stretch is about to accommodate a new subdivision called Huntlee which, essentially, will be a town or city of its own with 7,500 residential lots. Rest assured, the new Huntlee subdivision and village will have full sewerage connection, just as Branxton does. Yet North Rothbury will be situated immediately beside a completely sewered town and village but will not have the same facility unless something is done now. My great fear is that this will result in the development of areas of the haves and the have-nots depending on which side of the fence one sits: the one with sewerage services or the one without. I made a submission to the Minister’s office about four months ago regarding the rollout of future sewerage works by Hunter Water in the Hunter Valley to put North Rothbury needs into the mix. I hope the ministry makes an announcement in the coming weeks that North Rothbury has been successful because I cannot think of one—

Mr Greg Piper: Wyee.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I acknowledge the interjection of the member for Lake Macquarie. Wyee probably needs connection to the sewerage system just as much, but I cannot think of many other towns that need it more urgently. The second matter I raise is the condition of Cessnock police station, which is an incredibly old building that has been cobbled together and gradually expanded and added onto over the years. It includes the original police officer’s residence and purpose-built structures beside the Cessnock courthouse. As a result of the add-on, join-on, attached and detached-type process over the past 50 or 100 years, we have ended up with a police station that is more like a rabbit warren than a modern police station. Space is tight and cramped and male and female change facilities are completely inadequate.

Much of the infrastructure is rusted and is falling down and paint is peeling from the walls. Even the back car park area has derelict and completely unusable garage spaces. One garage still standing looks like it was built for a horse and buggy and certainly would not house a car or vehicle used for modern policing. It is important that Cessnock police station is upgraded in the very near future. The population essentially has doubled over the past 20 years, but police numbers certainly have not. On at least six occasions in this House I have said that local area commands in regional New South Wales do not work. I acknowledge that they were introduced by former Premier Bob Carr and the former Labor Government, but they do not work in regional New South Wales. Cessnock is serviced by the regional command based in Maitland.

However, 20 years back when Cessnock’s population was half that of today the police operational force included 36 officers, a team of detectives and the highway patrol unit all operating out of Cessnock police station under different work, health and safety conditions. Present conditions would not have the ability to house those officers. Nevertheless, the detectives have moved to Maitland, although they spend a short period at Cessnock, and, of course, the highway patrol has moved as its own unit. Inspector Gary O’Dell is an incredibly hardworking local officer who is doing his very best to service the needs of the people of Cessnock, but we need a new police station. I urge the Minister to consider providing it in future budgets.