Right of Reply: Letter to the constituents of Cowper
I REFER to the open letter to the Prime Minister published in the Coffs Coast Advocate on Saturday, 29 October.
Contrary to the concern expressed in the letter I believe our region has a bright future and is being strongly supported by governments at a State and Federal level.
The Mid North Coast, in particular Coffs Harbour and surrounds, is experiencing strong growth underpinned by a $5.64bn Federal Government investment in the Pacific Highway upgrade, a project that is the 21st century equivalent of the Snowy Mountains scheme.
In recent months we have seen the opening of the Fredrickton to Eungai, and Nambucca Heads to Urunga bypass sections of the highway.
Works are moving apace as construction on the Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads section makes its way toward completion as well as massive works to the north of Coffs Harbour progressing rapidly.
The Pacific Highway upgrade is creating 4000 direct jobs and 12,000 indirect jobs giving a massive boost to our local economy. Early work on the multi-million Coffs Harbour bypass has started, and will also generate employment into the future.
Unemployment in the Coffs Harbour local government area is 0.5 per cent below the national average which is an outstanding achievement for a lifestyle city such as Coffs.
Employment growth is projected by the Department of Employment to be amongst the highest in the country in coming years.
During the election campaign earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced the $25 million Jobs and Investment package for the north coast.
This package aims to encourage new businesses to move to the area and encourage existing businesses to grow.
Air services to Coffs Harbour continue to grow and our airport now boasts two new airlines - FlyPelican and Fly Corporate - flying passengers in and out of Coffs Harbour direct from Brisbane and Newcastle on daily services.
The new flights are a boon for a strong tourism industry that is outperforming other parts of Australia. An article in this paper named the North Coast as the third most popular Australian holiday destination ahead of Adelaide and Brisbane.
On the subject of tourism, the Coalition Government has contributed nearly $5 million toward the jetty foreshore development. It also outlaid $500,000 toward the BCU Stadium to ensure this trend continues.
Investment in health, education and employment continues with Southern Cross University receiving $12 million toward an allied health campus. The new Kempsey Hospital campus is operational and Macksville Hospital is slated for a $50 million redevelopment.
Coffs Harbour Hospital is set to receive $156 million which will see enhancements to the existing surgical and operating theatres in addition to new theatres, a new short stay surgical unit, orthopaedic and vascular unit, ambulatory care area and the expansion of community health. The high-level of investment in our healthcare network compliments a cohort of world-class practitioners already living and working in the wider Coffs area.
We have a rapidly growing agricultural sector. In support of this, the Government has negotiated free-trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea.
What that means locally is high farm-gate prices for local producers and more jobs.
Figures show that the local population is set to grow by more than 30 per cent over the next 20 years. This forecast also precipitates the need for an additional 13,000 homes to be built.
Coffs Harbour City Council is already wading through nearly $141 million worth of building approvals which supports this theory.
I would suggest the looming expansion is not due to a regional area languishing from neglect.
In the lead-up to the Federal election I announced a range of commitments which I am currently seeing through to delivery.
A snapshot of local investment - both State and Federal - in the region indicates that our region is thriving rather than suffering.
I view the future of our region with great hope and optimism which is buoyed by the knowledge the Coalition Government has regional Australia in its sights.
The real outlook is a far cry from the vision portrayed in the letter to the Prime Minister of Australia.
Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker