THE Hunter Jobs Alliance is among those offered a place on an interim expert panel announced in NSW parliament yesterday to advise on the use of the state government's new $25-million-a-year Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund.
The Hunter Jobs Alliance was launched in November last year as a coalition of unions and environmentalists to get past what they described as the "failed 'jobs versus environment' dynamic" in planning a post-coal future for the state's mining communities.
Although the CFMEU is not a member, the alliance has is establishing a foothold across the region, and is launching a new report titled Future-proofing the Hunter: Voices from our community in Singleton this evening.
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In question time yesterday, the Minister for Regional NSW, Paul Toole, said he would this week release a "consultation draft" of proposed amendments to the Mining Act 1992 to create the Royalties for Rejuvenation fund and the expert panel being set up to advise the government.
The alliance has been calling for a new "Hunter Valley Authority", which alliance co-ordinator Warrick Jordan said yesterday was modelled on Victoria's Latrobe Valley Authority and on work done in the Western Australian power station town of Collie, south of Perth.
Although the government panel and the proposed authority are separate concepts, a government source described them as "parallels" and Mr Jordan said the alliance had talked through its "transition" plans with the government.
Mr Jordan said the alliance had been invited to an "expert panel roundtable" to be held in Singleton on December 6. It's understood that Business Hunter, the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce and the Hunter Joint Organisation (of the region's 10 councils) have also been invited to join the interim panel.
Jobs alliance organiser Erin Killion said the Future-proofing report built on the responses of more than 300 people to an online survey and five online planning workshops held between August and October to "gather community input, ideas and priorities" for the Royalties for Rejuvenation fund.
Participants ranked 22 ideas and recommendations, and 10 priorities emerged.
"First was a local authority to co-ordinate and fund job creation and community support," Ms Killion said.
"That was chosen by 17 per cent. Next was funding 'flagship projects' to create jobs in new industries (14.9 per cent) and expanding TAFE and other vocational education (13.9 per cent).
"What we found when we spoke to people across the region was a lot of worry about the future, and current inequalities and challenges, but an equally strong willingness to get busy planning and responding to the changes we know are coming.
"This report features the voices of the people that attended our workshop.
"They came from all walks of life but we found strong common ground in the desire for a locally-led coordinating authority, investment in flagship projects to create jobs now, and expanding public vocational education and skill development."
One of the stakeholders in the jobs alliance is Hunter Renewal, which was formed by the Hunter Central Rivers Alliance and Lock The Gate.
Hunter Renewal coordinator Danielle Coleman said the workshops and questionnaires showed clearly that climate change, the environment and job security were "at the top of everyone's minds".
"We've seen the outcomes of the Glasgow climate change summit, we see the need to invest in new industries and allow this region to continue to thrive while the world charts its course to decarbonisation," Ms Coleman said.
"We are absolutely ready to be part of that effort."
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Ms Coleman said that at least 100 people were expected to attend tonight's launch at Club Singleton, with speakers including the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Steve Murphy, Singleton Chamber of Commerce president Sue Murphy and Mr Jordan from the alliance.
When the Royalties for Rejuvenation fund was unveiled in April, CFMEU Mining and Energy division district president Peter Jordan described the $25-million a year program as "little more than spare change", given that booming coal prices meant the state was set to earn $1.6 billion this year from coal royalties.
In Question Time yesterday, Mr Toole said the $25 million a year was on top of the Resources for Regions program, which had seen $420 million spent since 2012, including $75 million for 93 projects in the latest, eighth, round.
Answering a question from Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell, the Deputy Premier said the royalties proposal was "a future fund for future generations to support future jobs".
Mr Toole said "the locals" were the best placed to say what their communities needed, and an "interim" Hunter panel would operate until the Mining Act was amended to provide "locked box" legislative backing.
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