Coincidentally, the day Phillip O’Neill’s opinion piece was published (NH 29/10), drawing attention to demographic trends and job aspirations in the Hunter, a workshop was held in Newcastle encouraging collaborative leadership in the region. It was a precursor to the Second Cities Symposium.
Mr O’Neill seems to misunderstand the role of the Hunter Regional Plan and Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan. These are the framework for city and regional planning, and guide governments about how and where to focus infrastructure and other resources. Governments don’t drive the bulk of employment creation.
As highlighted in the workshop, successful second-tier city growth comes from private sector investment. That investment follows “better planning and management of land; increased investment in infrastructure and urban renewal; land use and density changes; increased rates of entrepreneurship and increased job growth in internationally traded sectors.”
By any measure, Newcastle and the wider Hunter is delivering on this strategy, but after a period of transformation, there is a risk complacency could lead to a loss of momentum.
Monday\'s workshop was hosted by Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation and the University of Newcastle\'s Hunter Research Foundation Centre. Tim Williams, former CEO of the Committee for Sydney spoke about the challenges and opportunities for the Hunter. There was acknowledgement Newcastle and the Hunter had benefited from State Government revitalisation. But this momentum could stall if the Hunter did not speak with one voice.
My opening message was there was unprecedented opportunities for government investment in the Hunter. Including from the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund. But collaborative leadership was the key to unlocking this investment.
The Central Coast is often regarded as a poor second cousin to the Hunter in terms of economic grunt. It is catching up.
Not least because it has one council with strong leadership that works with government in clearly identifying opportunities and infrastructure.
To answer Mr O’Neill’s question about delivering jobs. The government has developed regional and metro plans. We are ready to invest and fund the infrastructure to support the plans’ aims. The Hunter has the elements to transform and secure future employment. But it is heavily dependent on local leadership.