Greta Community Meeting

I also pay my respects to a former Premier of this State, Mr Nick Greiner. While he is not a political hero of mine, it is important to recognise the position and the title. Madam Acting-Speaker, I wish you a happy birthday.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Melanie Gibbons): Order! It is not my birthday, but thank you.

Mr Kevin Conolly: There are too many of them.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I am well aware of that, but it seems to have been the sentiment of the day for those who occupy the chair. I draw to the attention of the House a recent community meeting I held in the magnificent village of Greta. I should not separate Greta from Branxton because there is angst between those communities that stems from one lot of townsfolk crossing a picket line to work in one of the mines almost 100 years ago. Since then, never the twain shall meet. However, Greta Branxton, or the two separate villages of Greta and Branxton, have much in common and share so much territory, geography and issues. Just a few weeks ago 51 people turned up to the community meeting I held at the Greta Workers Club, which was also attended by the local mayor and the local Federal member of Parliament. It was an opportunity for the people of Greta and Greta Branxton to vent their frustration about any issues confronting them as they go about their everyday living.

There were 13 issues identified by the collective, which included some very loud and vociferous people as well as some very quiet people who had many thoughts in their heads but who wanted to ascertain the thoughts of the masses. The issues included rail noise, particularly in the Greta area where Pacific National has built a repair centre; the Anvil Creek development; local bridges, such as the Greta station rail bridge and the wooden footbridge; local policing; damage to infrastructure that has been caused by industry in the local area; curbing and guttering as well as roads and local access; the hospital at Huntlee and concerns that it will be developed on the eastern side of Metford rather than closer to Huntlee and future area expansion sites; the need for traffic lights at the corner of Nelson Street and the New England Highway; inadequate public transport; internet access that is in limbo because of uncertainty surrounding the national broadband network [NBN]; footpath concreting; pedestrian access across the Hunter Expressway, which will soon open; and coalmines and agriculture.

The group discussed those 13 issues in various ways with varying levels of emotion. Greta has become an epicentre. This small village with a population of 2,500 has a number of projects underway. Pacific National set up a workstation, the Australian Rail Track Corporation [ARTC] currently is in the process of changing from two rail lines to three rail lines throughout the Hunter region to hasten transportation of coal to the port, the Hunter Expressway is right beside the Greta village, the Anvil Creek golf course and residential development will occur soon, and the Huntlee development will result in the construction of 17,500 homes nearby. As a result of all that project activity, there has been a significant increase in heavy vehicle movements. The New England Highway also runs through the main street of Greta. Until the Hunter Expressway opens, the main street is carrying approximately 40,000 vehicle movements a day. Travelling from one side of the tiny village of Greta to the other is quite a feat.

No single issue was of more or less importance to the people of Greta, and no level of government can do more or less: We all need to share the load. Something that quickly became apparent is the compound effect of so much happening in a small place. Although there are many big players in the district, such as Pacific National, John Holland, the Australian Rail Track Corporation or Abigroup, no individual entity will take responsibility for the impact of its project on the village community. However, the reality is that the collective effect of the activity of all those groups has resulted in a significant adverse impact on the local community. As the local member of Parliament I have given an undertaking that I will continue to work with local people. I will try to make things better for them and try to work with big industry and the big players to make the lives of people who live in Greta better. I send my regards to the 51 people who attended the community meeting.