There was a united position expressed at the Framework for Growth event, organised by the Lithgow District Chamber of Commerce, with the region’s stakeholders advocating for a more proactive and collaborative working relationship across Government, Council and the Chamber.
The evening event, held at the Western Sydney University Transformation Hub on April 1 and attended by small to large employers and community groups from across the region, was addressed by Minsters Andrew Gee and Paul Toole and Mayor Maree Statham.
Under the auspices of the Framework for Growth theme, the event provided an opportunity for the three speakers to share their views on Lithgow’s future. The Chamber also provided details on its events program courtesy of the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery (BLER) funding package. As part of a vision for a stronger future, Chamber President Peter Pilbeam said ‘the Lithgow LGA exhibits tremendous opportunity and those of us in leadership roles must work together if our local community is to prosper.’
‘The Lithgow region is in a prime position to really take off. We’ve received $50 million in state funding for the Gardens of Stone; we have $2.03 billion being injected into the local economy with the Great Western Highway upgrade, ensuring quicker and safer access to Sydney, and; we’re seeing private investment also with NIOA, the biggest Australian-owned supplier of firearms, weapons and ammunition to the Australian Defence Force based in Lithgow with the intention of potentially using the area as the site for a new $50 million weapons factory.’
‘All this investment being injected into the region, coupled with the fact that more and more people are moving into the area because of its natural beauty, we are an economy that is in the process of diversifying and setting itself up for future growth. We really have so much on offer.’
‘The Chamber is positioned well to make the most of these opportunities having received the $503,000 joint Federal-State Government Bushfire Recovery grant which we are using to hold a series of key business events over the coming 2 years. In fact, our first BLER event held last week was enthusiastically embraced by aspiring entrepreneurs who will be supported and mentored in taking their ideas to fruition. A first for Lithgow where the resources and skills of the Chamber, Western Sydney University and State & Federal Governments are being pooled to create an innovation presence in the region.’
‘It’s time to unite and grow the LGA into a powerful location that businesses and families can call home. With Sydney house prices escalating to unsustainable levels and with the COVID environment, regional centres like Lithgow, are becoming viable locations for family living and remote working,‘ Mr Pilbeam said.
This message was echoed by the other speakers.
Member for Calare and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Andrew Gee, said Lithgow’s prime location means the city and surrounding districts will continue to go from strength to strength.
‘In 2020, a net 43,000 Australians – more than double from the previous year – chose to pack up their small city apartments, leave behind their hours-long daily commutes, and exchange a sea of grey skyscrapers for the endless blue skies of regional Australia. We haven’t seen migration inland like this since the days of gold rush, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see numbers of people swapping the city for the country rise even higher this year.’
‘As Sydney expands westward and the new Western Sydney International Airport takes shape, Lithgow, the gateway to the Golden West, with stunning natural beauty, history, unique attractions, and a strong manufacturing industry, is in pole position to inspire more young professionals, families and businesses to relocate to regional Australia,’ he said.
‘The Australian Government is investing in Lithgow’s future by funding big-ticket projects like the $2.03 billion upgrade of the Great Western Highway, millions in bushfire recovery funding, and the $1.93 million Federally funded facelift of Main Street,’ said Mr Gee.
Acting Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, and Member for Bathurst Hon. Paul Toole MP said ‘the BLER program is part of the $4.5 billion bushfire support program co-funded by the Federal and NSW Governments for bushfire recovery, response and preparedness in NSW.’
‘More than two years have passed since the Black Summer bushfires destroyed homes across our state including Lithgow and the NSW Government is continuing to deliver the support our local region needs to keep moving forward in recovery. We are backing projects that bring communities together, support tourism and boost business recovery’.
Mayor Maree Statham said, ‘Lithgow City Council plays a pivotal and vital role in the region’s future and is currently overseeing the Lithgow Emerging Economy Project (LEEP) in conjunction with the NSW Government. We will be reaching out to the wider community as part of the stakeholder interaction in an endeavour to gain insights so that an action plan can be developed that will guide our region towards a future proof economy. The economic environment is changing and we need to be proactive in the way we prepare for this.’ ‘We are all in this together and therefore Council echoes the need for collaboration and the pursuit of an action plan that is both robust and sustainable. It is rare to have three state significant projects on the table at any one time. Opportunities like this are rare and we have to embrace change and not be left behind,‘ she said.