I draw to the attention of the House the 100th anniversary of the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber, which was celebrated on 11 March 2013. The business chamber became established in 1913 after a brief meeting in December 1912 of the inaugural committee, which satisfied members that indeed there was something worthy about forming a group. Some descendants of the very first group attended the 2013 function to join in the celebrations. It is interesting to note that the conglomeration of businesses at the 1913 setup comprised people involved in what is known as traditional trades—butchers and bakers—that unfortunately we see far fewer of in regional communities these days.
The Kurri Kurri Business Chamber has had quite a chequered past, according to the current president, Mr Rod Doherty, owing to changes in State and Federal electoral boundaries. Indeed, the Kurri Kurri community has been moved, shunted, shoved, pushed and pulled to different parts of the local district, but it has stood the test of time and now stand firmly, proudly and boldly to celebrate a centenary. More recently the president referred to the establishment of the Beyond 2000 committee in the late 1990s, which was responsible for the publishing of four Kurri Kurri investment prospectuses, the creation of a community website—which in the late nineties was something of an evolutional revolution—and the setting up the Towns With Heart campaign, which has been extremely successful in the Kurri Kurri community.
The Towns With Heart campaign is responsible for placing plaques, sculptures and murals so that they adorn many business house walls throughout Kurri Kurri and attract visitors. The Beyond 2000 committee is to be congratulated for all its work. But of course we are well and truly beyond 2000 now, and one of the most successful committees operating as a result of the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber’s innovative platform is the 2030 Committee, which has been established specifically to maximise the benefits of the new Hunter Expressway. The expressway is a $1.7 billion piece of New South Wales infrastructure. It was constructed with funding of $200 million from the State Government and $1.5 billion from the Federal Government. The project featured funding that was announced, committed to and promised by a State Labor Government and a Federal Labor Government.
It important for the Kurri Kurri community to find a way to maximise the benefits of the Hunter Expressway, because it will change the movement of traffic throughout the Hunter region and potentially the movement of traffic from Sydney to Brisbane. The expressway may make the New England Highway the preferred route to Queensland. The Kurri Kurri expressway will be one of the main interchanges based on Heddon-Greta. The town of Kurri Kurri is situated right beside this new and incredible piece of infrastructure, the Hunter Expressway. People in the Kurri Kurri community need to understand ways in which to maximise the benefits that are incidental to the operation of the expressway. Someone once said, “If you want to make money go to the end of the freeway and buy land.” Kurri Kurri is already situated right beside the Hunter Expressway, so the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber should figure out how to maximise spin-offs as a result of its position. Kurri Kurri may well become a new centre for the Hunter.
A radio commentator, Meryl Swanson, made a speech during the celebrations. Meryl is a Kurri Kurri person born and bred and is Kurri Kurri through and through. While her work and career have taken her throughout Australia and the world, she wanted to return to Kurri Kurri to settle. Meryl was a worthy and appropriate guest speaker for the occasion, and was only too willing to recognise how much opportunity can be generated by a local business chamber. She told the gathering that as a 15-year-old in year 9 at school she had the opportunity to travel overseas because one of the local businesses, Alcan Aluminium, sponsored two students to visit Northumbria and investigate the possibility of establishing a sister-city relationship between Kurri Kurri and a town in Northumbria, England.
Meryl stated during her presentation that she realised she was a different person when she returned to Australia. She had wider horizons, a bigger picture and broader understanding of communities that, despite being on opposite sides of the world, had so much in common and offered such wonderful opportunities for young people. Meryl Swanson went on from that experience to do magnificent and wonderful things with her life, and that all stems back to the work of the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber. All credit is due to those involved in establishment of the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber in 1913. I congratulate all those who are involved in the Kurri Kurri Business Chamber’s current projects.