The Hunter Development Corporation will be overhauled by the Baird government to more closely mirror the Greater Sydney Commission.
The Newcastle Herald revealed on Friday that responsibility for delivering the new Hunter Regional Plan would be given to a refocused HDC, part of the government’s response to calls for the document to be given more teeth.
The HDC has been without a general manager since Bob Hawes stepped down in July and its board is due for renewal in the next year.
On Friday Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the government was looking at making wholesale changes to the organisation, including kicking off a search for a new chief executive, in the hope of giving it more responsibility over the future of planning in the Hunter.
“The HDC is an incredible mechanism for us,” he said.
“It has broad powers under the growth centres legislation and so today we are also formally starting a recruitment process for a new chief executive officer for HDC, a role it hasn’t had for many many years.”
The elevation of the HDC was one of a number of significant changes made to the Hunter Regional Plan – which maps development priorities in the region for the next 20 years – in its final incarnation after criticism of the draft.
Andrew Fletcher from the NSW Property Council said by putting the HDC in charge of the project the government had “signalled they want a new culture of accountability to be front-and-centre”.
Geoffrey Rock, the head of the Urban Development Institute of Australia in the Hunter, said the document would provide “a much needed map for future growth”.
“Planning in the Hunter has been adrift for over a decade,” he said.
In its submission on the plan the Institute called for a Hunter commission similar to the Greater Sydney Commission in the Hunter, and Mr Rock welcomed the government’s commitment to placing the HDC in that role at least in the interim.
“The good news is the Hunter is growing at a great pace,” he said.
“The bad news is we already have a housing shortage in the Hunter.
“We need to start working together as a region to make sure our growth is on track and that we have enough housing that is affordable and close to jobs.
“The Hunter Development Corporation is well placed to bring stakeholders together and begin that process of working together while the Government investigates how it might create a Hunter Commission.”