The NSW Minister for Natural Resources and Minister for Government Procurement Courtney Houssos was in Gunnedah last week while visiting the North West region to meet with local community members, workers, indigenous and industry representatives, farmers and representatives of local government.

The intention was to gain insight for the Future Jobs and Investment Authorities.

The NSW Minister for Natural Resources and Minister for Government Procurement Courtney Houssos in Gunnedah last week.

“As we are developing the model for these local authorities, I have been meeting directly with communities to find the solutions for each individual region,” Ms Houssos said.

“We know that coal is a crucial part of our state’s electricity network.

“It is also a key contributor to our state’s revenue through coal royalties and exports but we know it is not going to continue forever and we want to make sure we are planning and doing that important policy work now and partnering with local communities as we do it.”

She met with farmers concerned with gas on the Liverpool Plains, toured some of Santos’ sites, met with Whitehaven Coal and conducted a roundtable meeting in the area.

“I certainly heard plenty of feedback about some of the challenges that have been faced here across the North West but also what a fantastic region it is and how we want to be encouraging more people to come and live, work and raise their families right here in the North West,” she said.

Some of the feedback and challenges raised to her were access to schools, local health care and housing.

She mentioned the North West region has a slightly longer timeframe to transition with the Future Jobs and Investment Authorities.

“We know that we have existing coal approvals that will go out into the 2040s and maybe even beyond. But we want to be making sure we are getting those jobs and those skills right and we are working with communities as we develop those plans,” Ms Houssos said.

“I heard that we have more than 3000 directly employed workers here in the coal industry and while we do expect that that is likely to happen in this particular region for perhaps decades to come, we want to make sure that we are getting the planning right to put things in place and plan for the future. There are great opportunities in agriculture and manufacturing and also in better spending with government procurement and making sure that we are fostering and supporting those local businesses, especially those local businesses who are innovating themselves.”

The minister met with a key supplier to the Boggabri Coal project which she believed had done a good job at finding opportunities in the mining industry.

“As the Minister for Government Procurement, I am also hearing from [the manufacturer] about the challenges that they have in accessing those important government procurement dollars,” she said.

“What I heard is that the previous government system bringing government procurement packages into enormous projects has made it really difficult for local suppliers to be able to access government contracts. So, that is an important part of work that we want to do.”

Ms Houssos further explained the NSW government spent $42 billion procuring goods and services in a range of construction projects.

“What I have heard through my visit here, is that often those contracts are too big for local government, for local businesses to be accessing,” she said.

“As we consider how to reform our procurement processes, I am committed to making sure that we find more opportunities for local small businesses to be accessing those
government procurement spends.

“We know that the [government procurement] approvals for the Narrabri gas project predate [Labor’s term],” she said.

“We are looking at overturning those approvals.

“We do await the outcome of the Native Title Tribunal and implications of the federal court calling. In terms of the ability for regions like this, we want to be encouraging and fostering local jobs and finding opportunities for local jobs and for local communities and working in partnership with those communities.”


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