Narrabri Shire Council has received official confirmation that the NSW government will not proceed with the Narrabri Special Activation Precinct, but mayor Darrell Tiemens told Tuesday’s council meeting he believes the door has been left open for a ‘rebranded’ plan.

“I think it would be true to say that I was left with the impression that they’re still leaving the door open for possibly a rebranded or reconfigured, etcetera, some kind of plan across the entire shire,” said Cr Tiemens, following a virtual meeting with NSW government representatives.

“So that left me with a great deal of hope.

“And I think it’s important that we really ensure that we don’t miss out on the next round of projects for this particular shire.”
Cr Cathy Redding asked about the matter at Tuesday’s ordinary council meeting because Cr Tiemens, NSC general manager Rob Williams and director of planning Donna Ausling attended a virtual meeting about the SAP with NSW government department representatives on November 7.

The department representatives present at the virtual meeting included deputy secretary regional precincts with the Department of Regional NSW James Bolton, a/deputy secretary development assessment Department of Planning and Environment Anthea Sargeant, and Liam O’Callaghan, policy adviser for Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty MLC.

“We had a meeting with the senior public servants who have confirmed that the Narrabri Special Activation Precinct won’t be proceeding as a SAP,” said NSC director planning and sustainability Donna Ausling.

“That has since been formalised in writing to us.

“There has been a commitment for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to assist with a state-led rezoning process to focus on the work in the residential space that we’ve been discussing for quite a while.

“We do have a staff-level meeting with the DPE team in the next couple of weeks to understand what that landscape is going to look like further.

“I do also understand that the department’s going to coordinate a workshop with councillors early in the new year to discuss next steps and the roles and respective responsibility of each of the agencies.”

Cr Redding said, “Thank you very much, director.

“It’s good to know that they are willing to continue talks on some level – that is very encouraging.

“And it is encouraging that they are still leaving the door open for some form of discussions and really, as councillors, to move this shire forward, we need to assist and co-operate in every way that we can.”

The NSW government’s website states, “The Narrabri Special Activation Precinct was subject to the 2023 NSW Government’s Strategic Infrastructure Review.

“The purpose of the review was to ensure capital expenditure delivers maximum benefits to citizens of NSW and is aligned with the government’s strategic objectives and priorities, including increasing housing supply in regional NSW.

“Following consideration of the review’s findings, the NSW government has decided not to proceed with this project as a Special Activation Precinct.”

The website explains the ‘next steps’ will involve ‘the Department of Planning and Environment, along with Narrabri Council, working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for the community through a state-led rezoning that will enable future growth, including improvements to the town centre, land for more housing and light industrial purposes’.

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro announced Narrabri’s SAP status in November 2020.

A SAP has been described as a dedicated area in a regional location identified by the NSW government to become a thriving business hub, bringing together planning and investment to create jobs and boost economic growth in dedicated regional locations across the state.

Other SAP locations announced in NSW included Moree, Parkes, Wagga Wagga, Williamstown, and the Snowy Mountains.

Under the former government, the department had said the precinct would bring further economic growth to the region by leveraging the Inland Rail and the Northern NSW Inland Port, providing direct access to global and international markets.

The Northern NSW Inland Port at Narrabri was recently cut under the federal government’s Infrastructure Review.

Since the Narrabri SAP announcement in 2020, a series of community forums and sessions were held in town with department representatives in attendance.

Narrabri Chamber of Commerce president Russell Stewart helped facilitate a lot of the community forums, and he said news the SAP wouldn’t be proceeding was “extremely disappointing”.

“People committed themselves to business growth off the back of those early promises,” said Mr Stewart.

“There was up to $200 million to be invested in the shire, where has that been reallocated to?

“We were told that the Narrabri SAP had been budgeted for and that the money was there prior to that election.

“It’s absolutely huge because the previous government continued to tell us it was definitely on.”

Mr Stewart said the public forums that the chamber organised with NSW Planning were ‘well attended’, and he believed people would be feeling ‘badly done by’ because ‘there was a lot of excitement in Narrabri’ regarding the SAP, especially when it came to light industrial and housing plans.

Mr Stewart said it was ‘terrific’ if the door was still open for further discussion.

He said the Chamber of Commerce would support the council’s push for a rebranded plan for Narrabri.

“Whatever we do, we can’t give up, the chamber and council have a strong relationship, and we’ll continue to grow that.

“We’re happy to start doing visits to Sydney.

“In excess of $4 billion comes out of this shire every year, contributing to the economy.

“We’re not a tumbleweed town.

“There needs to be some sort of payback. Squeaky doors get oil, and if you don’t continue to push for your community, you’ll get forgotten.

“If you’re not growing, you’re going backwards. Narrabri has always been identified as a growth centre.”

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