A NEW lobby group that aims to promote resources, industry and commerce in the valley will have its first public meeting on April 16.
Advance Gloucester was formed as a direct result of increasing community concern over the way Gloucester is perceived by other regions across the State, vice president Rod Williams said.
“The aim (of Advance Gloucester) is to promote, encourage, support and advance any commercial, industrial, mining, sporting and-or cultural business undertaking enterprise, project and-or venture and carry out any activities which in the opinion of the association, will advance Gloucester and adjacent areas for the benefit of the general population,” Mr Williams said.
The group has met twice, attracting two dozen people to its first meeting and more than 50 to a second meeting which State MLC Scot MacDonald attended.
“Scot MacDonald gave a sobering reality check for anyone that was in any doubt about the need for both coal and coal seam gas development, not just locally but throughout NSW,” Mr Williams said.
“There are many in our group that often pose the question - what would our heritage be if gold mining wasn’t allowed at Copeland? It attracted newcomers to the area, all keen to make their fortune.
“What if the local timber industry wasn’t allowed to develop or the clearing of our valleys floors and ridges for dairying and grazing purposes was banned because of the protests of a few?
“Ironically, it is because of all of these that we continue to enjoy increasing tourism and new residents to the area to view and appreciate the result of industry that way preceded their arrival.”
Advance Gloucester president and dairy farmer Bill Williams has lived on the Avon River all his life.
His property is a short distance away from both the Stratford coal mine and AGL’s Tiedmans property.
He says he has happily coexisted with both since they arrived in the valley.
“We’re not a pro-mining group. But we are a group that feels mining is beneficial to the district,” he said.
“We believe we can co-exist with mining and we’re only interested in the Gloucester area. We’re not canvassing other areas.”
Bill’s wife Sandra is the group’s secretary and former Gloucester Shire councillor Jerry Germon is the treasurer.
The committee includes locals Bob Hewett and Don Readford.
Rod Williams said the group was keen to meet with council to discuss its stance on the extractive resources industry.
“People with backgrounds as diverse as business, farming, tourism, real estate, journalism, engineering, local residents, retirees and tree changers, as well as those employed in extractive industries, are coming forward with their own experiences that clearly demonstrate that whether intentional or not, the resilient heritage of Gloucester and surrounding communities is being compromised by negative media exposure,” he said.
“Clearly, Advance Gloucester recognises and respects that not all things are palatable to all people and, unlike other groups, we acknowledge that we may not even represent the views of all the community.
“Nonetheless, we are like minded community people who are prepared to realistically and rationally assess and pursue options for Gloucester’s future prosperity.”
He said that meant securing employment opportunities for young people growing up in Gloucester.
“In the past, there have been many occasions where Gloucester has been held up as a shining example of a rural town with options other towns were envious of; other towns that embarrassingly quoted school leavers as their number one export,” he said.
“That is definitely not something Advance Gloucester aspires to.”