Costco to bring huge economic boost to Lake Macquarie

5th August 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (19:00:22): At about this time last year both Houses of the Parliament unanimously endorsed the Lake Macquarie Smelter Site (Perpetual Care of Land) Bill. This provided a much-needed circuit breaker on an issue of great concern to the Lake Macquarie community—an issue I have worked very closely on for the best part of 20 years. I am very pleased to inform the House today that we have seen the first significant step derived from that bill. That step will see an estimated $300 million annually in economic activity in the Lake Macquarie area, which will directly create hundreds of jobs at a time when they are desperately needed.

Members would remember that the Pasminco lead and zinc smelter was an industrial behemoth that operated at Cockle Creek for more than 100 years. In 2001 many jobs were lost when Pasminco closed and left the area, leaving the site in the hands of receivers and leaving my community a toxic legacy that we have been cleaning up for two decades since. I do not intend to dwell too much on that history as it is well known within the local community and in this House, but significant difficulties presented in dealing with the administrators, Ferrier Hodgson, have added to the frustrations of many, including me.

Last August when the Lake Macquarie smelter site bill was passed, it resulted in the entire site being acquired by the Government and placed under the control of the Hunter & Central Coast Development Corp [HCCDC]. The Act required HCCDC to directly deal with the administrator and with parties that already had contracts on land sites. It is no secret now that among those who had contractual interests in the site were retail giants Costco and IKEA, and a residential development company, Green Capital. Last Friday I was joined by the Minister for Water, Property and Housing at Cockle Creek to announce that two of those parties were about to proceed with their long-held plans.

Costco announced that it had lodged a development application for a $60 million retail outlet, while Green Capital announced that it would proceed with a residential development that would create 500 new homes. This was great news for a community that had fought longer than it should have for a successful remediation of Pasminco's toxic legacy. Pending council approval, the Costco outlet on 6.8 hectares of remediated land will be the company's first regional outlet in New South Wales—quite a coup for Lake Macquarie. Construction will generate about 80 full?time equivalent [FTE] jobs during construction and about 250 FTEs when operational. Green Capital's project will create about 400 FTE jobs during construction.

Despite the long and drawn-out history of this site, these projects could not have come at a better time for Lake Macquarie which, like everywhere else, has suffered a significant downturn in the local economy over the past few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I said in August last year, the Government's intervention would not just unlock the stalemate that had burdened the site's full remediation but also unlock significant economic and social outcomes for the area—and that is what we are now seeing. It would be remiss of me not to mention that we are still well short of cleaning up all of Pasminco's toxic legacy in the Cockle Creek and Boolaroo areas. Some of that legacy remains in the adjoining residential areas of Boolaroo, Agenton and Macquarie Hills where lead contamination is still something we continue to manage and will need to continue finding solutions to for some time.

Having said that, we must celebrate our wins along the way! I again thank the Parliament for its bipartisan support on the Cockle Creek issue and in particular the Premier and the Hon. Melinda Pavey, without whom we could not have done this. Thanks to Costco and Green Capital for their perseverance when many other companies would have walked away. I also thank the Lake Macquarie City Council, including mayor Kay Fraser, CEO Morven Cameron, and Peter Francis who is the CEO of the council's development arm Dantia. When everything looked over and out, it was Peter who came to me to help find a solution to what seemed like a hopeless mess. I was so glad that with help from the then regional director of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Stephen Wills, we were able to find a way forward and achieve a great result. I also thank Valentina Misevska and her team at Hunter-Central Coast Development Corporation who have played a significant role since acquiring the site last year and who will continue to do so in the future. This has been a long and at times bumpy ride for the Lake Macquarie community, and we still have some way to go. But as I said earlier, we should stop and acknowledge our wins when we get them—and this is a big one.

Website: Read the Parliamentary Hansard here

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