Kurri Kurri is the centre of a region, within the Hunter Valley, known as the South Maitland Coalfields. Although the era of coal has now passed, the region is centrally located within the Lower Hunter Valley to ideally provide ease of travel, whether it is for employment, recreation or to visit the cities of Newcastle and Sydney, whilst also providing a range of housing options.
At the commencement of the 1900’s the Newcastle coal mines were rapidly coming to the end of their life span, so the colliery owners turned to the nearby South Maitland Coalfield, proven by Sir Edgeworth David, government geological surveyor, in 1886, to be the richest coal field in the Southern Hemisphere.
Coinciding with the advent of Federation, the coal towns all sprang up in quick succession from 1901-04, as rapidly as a rail transport line could be constructed into what was previously a wilderness. Kurri Kurri was thus founded in October, 1902.
During the mid-1920’s the coal trade reached its peak but by the mid-1960’s had all but ended. During the coal era the district and towns prospered, with a strong, unique community growing with it. Today only memorials are to be seen of the coal era, most notably being the grand hotels of the region, a reminder of the wealth which once existed.
Since the 1970’s, numerous light industries have been established as the town took another direction, as well as the introduction of an aluminium smelter. 2012 saw the closure of the Aluminium smelter which employed up to 1,000 employees at its height of production.
The spirit of Kurri Kurri and its people was exhibited in 1993 when it was judged the State Tidy Town winner, reflecting the pride the community has in the town which they call home. Throughout Kurri Kurri and the surrounding towns can also be seen many examples of simple miners’ cottages, proudly preserved and maintained by their owners.
In 1998 the community established a Beyond 2000, an initiative of the Kurri Kurri District Business Chamber. Ultimately a new town committee known as Towns with Heart was established, with the aim of implementing and managing community based economic development and tourism events and projects. Examples include the Murals Project, Kurri Kurri Nostalgia Festival, Kurri Kurri Visitor Centre, the Big Kookaburra, Town of Murals Art Show, Lost Diggers Photographic Display and the Field of Honour
The construction of the Hunter Expressway in the last decade, which cuts through the centre of the Kurri Kurri district, provides much easier access to Newcastle, Sydney and the north west of the State.
New industries and job creation activities continue to emerge and establish in the area, with a greater emphasis on tourism, hospitality, health services and education.