EDITORIAL: A plan without action

THE cynicism with which the NSW government’s Hunter Regional Action Plan has been received in some quarters is only partly deserved.

The cynicism exists because similar glossy-brochure-style pseudo-plans have come and gone over the years and Hunter people have become used to observing how the broad implied promises they contain have seldom been honoured.

But, bearing that in mind, the latest action plan is a cut above many of its predecessors. In its favour, most of its goals and targets appear to have actually been drawn from the region’s own wish-list, rather than being vague notions imposed from outside.

Vitally, the plan explicitly recognises that the Hunter needs, above all, ‘‘a more diversified economy to ensure the continuing economic stability of the Hunter regional economy’’.

‘‘Sustained growth of the region’s economy and an increase in local jobs relies upon a diverse range of industry bases to minimise the effects of downturn in any one sector and to build responsiveness to change in national and global markets,’’ the plan states.

A small number of general proposals are listed to achieve this aim. These include typical undertakings to support existing strengths in areas like defence, energy technology, tourism, winemaking and manufacturing.  

Unfortunately, beyond this point the action plan is revealed as fairly thin and threadbare. It would have been preferable to have seen some genuine undertakings. What industries might grow, for example, if a long-mooted gas pipeline was built into the Hunter from the north? 

The plan mentions the possibility of a very fast passenger rail link between Newcastle and Sydney and the importance of reserving a corridor for this possible future development.  

The plan also considers improvements to the Tourle Street bridge and Cormorant Drive on Kooragang Island – developments that would enhance the value of Newcastle Airport. 

Interestingly, the plan describes ‘‘catalyst projects’’ to revitalise Newcastle city, including the redevelopment of Newcastle Art Gallery – a project the government has so far pointedly refused to back with more than words.

More detail in more specific blueprints in transport, freight and elsewhere is promised, leaving open the possibility of practical commitments in those areas. 

On balance, this new plan deserves credit as an improvement on some past versions. But what it lacks – so far – is a practical timetable for implementation. 

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