Team Watagan wins top prize in HunterNet's Future Leaders program in Newcastle

Win: Team Watagan members with MP Scot MacDonald, fourth from left, and HunterNet CEO Tony Cade, fifth from right.
Win: Team Watagan members with MP Scot MacDonald, fourth from left, and HunterNet CEO Tony Cade, fifth from right.

A HOLISTIC approach to transforming Newcastle from a great regional city to an emerging global city – including accelerating population and jobs and rehabilitating mining land for agricultural purposes – has won industry kudos for a team of young Hunter professionals.

Team Watagan was one of four teams competing in peak manufacturing group HunterNet’s annual Future Leaders program, which this year set the challenge of how to fuel unprecedented growth to cement Newcastle and the Hunter as “the industry benchmark and world leaders in the global export market by 2037.”

Its members are Alis Strickland (PerformHR), Trish Heagney (NAB), Tim Browne (Umwelt), David Wheatley (Australian Rail Track Corporation), Petr Klima (Bohemian Solutions) and Ryan Fox (Yancoal), with mentoring from Mal Coble (general manager, Tunra).

Central to the team’s winning submission was the so-called Hunter Regional Deal, which provided a framework to boost population growth in the Hunter by 10 per cent more than projections, plus increasing jobs by 20 per cent above projections.

The team mooted the creation of the Hunter Regional Government Coalition as a governance body to administer the deal, saying similar groups had been trialled elsewhere to provide a “one stop shop” for industry to fast-track changes needed to promote a region to the global market.

Team effort: Team Watagan members, L-R, Ryan Fox, Tim Brown, Trish Heagney, Alis Strickland, David Wheatley, Petr Klima and mentor Mal Coble, kneeling.

Team effort: Team Watagan members, L-R, Ryan Fox, Tim Brown, Trish Heagney, Alis Strickland, David Wheatley, Petr Klima and mentor Mal Coble, kneeling.

Key to the Hunter Regional Deal’s success to promote the Hunter as a progressive, prosperous and liveable region was targeting governance, innovation and continued investment in vital infrastructure for industry including natural resources (mining and agriculture), education and tourism.

Mr Browne said the team had identified the need for the Hunter Regional Deal early in the piece before putting meat to the bones of the concept.

“We did a lot of research and spoke to learned business people and they all said that government is not the driver of progress, rather private industry,  but governments are the enablers, so if we created an environment with world class infrastructure and liveability and the innovation was fostered we’d create the environment where people and business can do business,” he said. 

Ms Heagney said the team had nominated natural resources, education and tourism as sectors where the Hunter was already kicking goals but could improve on given the opportunity.

  Ms Strickland said the team’s members were invested in the region and worked on concepts they hoped would come to fruition. 

The Future Leaders teams’ submissions can be viewed at hunternet.com.au.