Every day, dozens of trains burdened with roughly $66-million worth of coal pass through Gunnedah and the Liverpool Plains – New England MP Barnaby Joyce says he wants to see more of that money stay local, rather than being carted off to the capital cities.
Mr Joyce’s inquiry in to the relationship between the mining sector and regional businesses was in Tamworth on Tuesday, hearing from local councils and mining companies.
“What is important to me, is the comparative analysis of what is extracted from a district, and the wealth that remains in a district,” Mr Joyce said.
“There is immense wealth going to other places, and small amounts staying.”
Liverpool Plains Shire mayor Andrew Hope said his council wants to see more of the money generated from the region’s mining sector spent on the “infrastructure pinch points” it created.
“The Werris Creek overpass is one of those pinch points, which we’ve got an estimate on the books for $14 million,” Cr Hope said.
“With trains coming through so often, it cuts off our emergency services, breaks the town in half and it’s about a 40-kilometre round trip to the highway to get around it.”
Mr Joyce said based on evidence heard in the inquiry, the state government made about $6.6m a day in royalties from the region’s mining industry, based on current coal prices.
“So that overpass is two-days worth of royalties,” Mr Joyce said.
Gunnedah Shire deputy mayor Gae Swain told the inquiry she’d like to see a “formalised expectation” with mining companies to contribute to public facilities such as swimming pools and sporting grounds.
“I think there should be some process where that social and moral responsibility is picked up in to discussions,” Cr Swain said.
“Large numbers of workers and their families moving in to our shire will lead to further social shortages in facilities such as housing, schooling and childcare.”