Jobs in Hunter pitch for defence hub

A MAJOR push to develop the Hunter as a national Defence Force hub has begun with a new strategy aimed at expanding Williamtown RAAF base and Singleton army base and better utilising the Newcastle port for navy and manufacturing operations.

To read the Herald's editorial, click here.

Developed by Hunter Business Chamber and Hunter Net, the Hunter Defence Strategy has taken more than a year to develop and will today be discussed by a local delegation with deputy premier Andrew Stoner at the Avalon Air Show in Victoria.

The ambitious plan aims  to get the Hunter a bigger slice of the national defence industry pie, creating new jobs and diversifying the region’s economy. 

The Newcastle Herald can today reveal  key targets include:

●a push for Headquarters Air Command to be relocated from the Blue Mountains to Williamtown;

●the co-location of Hawk operations at Williamtown;

●the duplication and development of new runways at Williamtown Airport;

●the establishment of a defence-oriented business hub at Williamtown, intended to maintain and service the planned Joint Strike Fighter air fleet;

●boosting the role of Lone Pine Barracks at Singleton; and

●identifying a Defence-capable role for the Port of Newcastle.

The objective of today’s meeting is to secure support from the NSW government which, in recent years, has been considerably outgunned by  South Australian and Queensland governments when securing Defence Force contracts, operations and related industry.

‘‘This is about being pro-active, attracting more defence-type industry to the Hunter region, diversifying the local economy and putting real dollars into the area,’’ Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan said.

Defence currently spends about $18.7billion annually within Australia. Of that,  17per cent is spent in NSW, but Defence budget modelling shows that figure should  rise to about 28per cent in 10 years.

‘‘That represents enormous opportunities for the Hunter to build on what it already has,’’ chamber president Richard Anicich said. 

‘‘With [former Deputy Commander of Australian armed forces in the Middle East] Tim Owen in parliament, we have an even better opportunity.

‘‘We have engaged with Defence, we’ve engaged with the university and TAFE, we’ve engaged with industry to develop the strategy and everyone is on board.’’

The Hunter Defence strategy also includes initiatives to  help small- and medium-sized Hunter businesses bid for Defence contracts, and identify related manufacturing and service opportunities.

COVERING OUR BASES

SUPPORT:   Former Air Commodore, now MP, Tim Owen.

RAAF BASE, WILLIAMTOWN

■ Employs 3500people directly with an annual salaries bill of $280million.

■ 2000families, with one or more member working at the base, live in the region. 

■ Defence Housing owns 857local properties.

■ The base has operated at Williamtown since the 1930s.

■ It is Australia’s main fighter pilot training base and will house 75Joint Strike Fighter aircraft when they are completed.

LONE PINE ARMY BARRACKS, SINGLETON

■ Houses the School of Infantry and the Special Forces Training Centre.

■ The base has a permanent workforce of 371personnel. 

DEFENCE SPENDING

■ Australia’s annual defence budget is about $24billion

■ Of that, about $18.7billion is spent in Australia. 

■ About $5.5billion is spent annually on materials and equipment. Of that, only 17per cent is spent in NSW (about 25per cent in SA and QLD). 

■Over the next 10years, Defence says its spend in NSW will increase to 28per cent, or about $1.54billion.

■ The Hunter’s share could be as high as $540million a year.

HUNTER DEFENCE STRATEGY 

■ Develop a defence industry action plan.

■ Expand RAAF operations at Williamtown.

■ Encourage ‘‘prime’’ defence-oriented businesses to the region.

■ Facilitate a defence role for the Port of Newcastle.

■ Support the relocation of Headquarters Air Command from the Blue Mountains to Williamtown.

■ Facilitate the co-location of Hawk operations to Williamtown.

■ Encourage support capabilities and infrastructure for the JSF aircraft program.

Aerospace park taxis for takeoff

THE first major tenant of the $500million aerospace park near Newcastle Airport will get on board today.

The Canberra-based CEA Technologies will today sign a letter of intent to lease office space within the park on the proviso that construction is completed in an agreed timeframe.

Member for Newcastle Tim Owen will today join representatives of the company, Hunter Defence and Williamtown AeroSpace Centre at the Avalon Air Show in Victoria to announce the deal.

‘‘We’ve been working very hard to get business and industry into the park, so this is a great step forward,’’ Mr Owen said last night.

The Williamtown Aerospace Centre, owned by prominent Hunter developer Hilton Grugeon, is proposed for an 89-hectare site adjoining the RAAF and Newcastle Airport.

When completed, the site will comprise more than 100 individual lots, which could house airport or defence-related industry and services. The original concept suggested that the precinct could create up to 5000 jobs and include tow-way areas to existing runways, a hotel and function centre, and a commercial precinct.

Meanwhile, Mr Owen said he ‘‘enthusiastically’’ presented the Defence Hunter plan to deputy premier and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Stoner yesterday.

‘‘I know how important the defence industry is to the Hunter,’’ Mr Owen said.

‘‘I have congratulated the [Hunter Business] Chamber on the initiative because it dovetails into what the state government is doing.

‘‘That’s why we’re in Avalon now – selling NSW and the Hunter to the big players.’’

Mr Owen is no stranger to the Williamtown RAAF Base, performing his basic air training there in the late 1970s. He went on to serve as the Deputy Commander of Australian Armed Forces in the Middle East.

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