I had been appointed Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter in April 2015 for three weeks when the Superstorm hit. What an introduction to Maitland! I remember standing on the bridge at the railway station and looking at the fast moving flood. My wife and I drove through flooded waters (as directed by Emergency workers) to talk to impacted residents. I hitched rides with the SES to see first hand the rescue efforts. When I met the first helicopter to land on flood stranded Gillieston Heights, I was promptly put to work helping to unload toilet paper at the community hall. I could see the Parliamentary Secretary role was going to be glamorous.
What I saw in that Flood response time and the months after of recovery was a tough, resilient community. Nothing has changed.
I think one of the secrets of success of Maitland is its strong Council. I dealt with Mayor Blackmore then and more lately Mayor Baker. General Manager David Evans has ensured Maitland City Council has the finances to weather the natural disasters and prepare the City for its rapid growth. It is regarded by the NSW Government as one of the best Councils in the State.
I am very proud the new Maitland Hospital is underway. Maitland and Lower Hunter deserve this $470 million investment in Health Infrastructure. Clinical Health delivery has evolved and become more demanding. The new Hospital at Metford will have 70% more beds and expanded services.
We must not forget Maitland retains an important agricultural sector and was one of the earliest regions to fall into drought. The Maitland Mercury, including reporter Belinda Jane-Davies (now recognised with a Walkley Award) did an exceptional job in highlighting the issue to the Government and the rest of the country. Through visiting lower Hunter farms with the Mercury and talking to landowners I was able to communicate the situation on the ground to Premier Berejiklian. This helped the Government respond with a range of farmer support measures.
Maitland has so much going for it. The Green Hills Stockland’s centre is probably unmatched in regional Australia, yet the High Street is rebounding with a new look and cultural appeal. Maitland isn’t too big and yet has all the services families need. It still has a great country town feel.
I have enjoyed every minute working in and with Maitland. I will be watching its growth and successes for a long time.
Hon. Scot MacDonald MLC
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter