THE FORMER COAL MINE TOWN OF LEIGH CREEK is presenting new challenges in the South Australian outback. The town is keen to become a tourist base for the outback, highlighting the region's natural, cultural and heritage resources.
Leigh Creek was established in 1982 to support the coal mine that was closed in 2015 as the second of the two power station in Port Augusta was about to be shutdown. This ended premier (1938-65) Tom Playford’s dream of South Australia controlling its own power generation.
The task now is to discern a future for the small outback community, 550 kilometres north of Adelaide.
Leigh Creek’s potential starts with existing assets and infrastructure, the region’s natural wonders, significant Aboriginal (Adnyamathanha) culture and heritage, ecotourism and accommodation for a sustainable regional service centre.
The government has opened itself to ideas from the community. Thirty-four recommendations to the government on ways to revitalise and maintain the town had been assessed by 100 technical experts from across specialist industries and government.
The town’s essential services, including street lighting and parks, established by coal mine owner Alinta Energy, will be maintained by the state government has through the Outback Communities Authority (OCA). It will maintain the swimming pool, sports stadium and rubbish dump for the 700 residents of the town and surrounding pastoral areas.
This Outback Communities Authority already provides a form of local government for unincorporated areas of the state. A transition manager will be appointed by the government to develop commercial opportunities for Leigh Creek. A new regional manager for the far north will work with all levels of government to identify job opportunities for people facing retrenchment in the far north and outback.
The Outback Communities Authority will also have a Northern Flinders project officer to provide a direct link to government for communities including Leigh Creek, Copley, Lyndhurst, Marree, Nepabunna, Beltana, Parachilna and Blinman.