Focus on economic vision for regional NSW

PIECES TO GROWTH: Links are key to regional growth, especially in the Hunter.
PIECES TO GROWTH: Links are key to regional growth, especially in the Hunter.

The state government recently released a 20 year Economic Vision for Regional NSW (the Vision). I’m surprised it didn’t receive more media and community scrutiny at the time.

The Vision seeks to round up the outcomes from a series of workshops held across the state in the process of defining functional economic regions whose building blocks are respective local government areas. It identifies what are considered seven existing ‘engines’ driving industry in the regions including resources and mining, tourism, education and defence as well as three emerging sectors capable of propelling economies forward such as advanced manufacturing and technology based industry.

Its virtue is it seeks to work from strengths and build on existing capacity and capability and not have a blank sheet as the start point for considering investigation for future growth and investment. It’s backed by the $4.2 billion proceeds of the Snowy Hydro legacy fund.

The Hunter Business Chamber responded positively to the Vision but questioned how it can be effectively delivered in the Hunter. Firstly, Lake Macquarie has been bracketed with the Central Coast. This is not insurmountable as the Central Coast and the Hunter are both identified as ‘Metro satellites’ under the Vision.

Secondly, the Newcastle local government area is excluded. Yes, that question of the distinction between ‘metro’ and ‘regional’ comes into play again. The Vision recognises that well-supported and productive regions can do much more to power the NSW and national economies.

And unsurprisingly, if we consider the Hunter as a whole (inclusive of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie), it features in each of the 10 sectors capable of driving economies identified in the vision. 

The chamber believes the latest vision underscores the need for government and business to identify and understand the linking piece between the significance of regional capitals like Newcastle and Wollongong and how these centres best work in their regions to generate the best outcome, and not be separated from them. The commitment by the government to regions is a real positive.

However, questions remain whether the Hunter is hamstrung from doing its bit when the Newcastle local government area is effectively partitioned from its surrounding hinterland.

Bob Hawes is the CEO of the Hunter Business Chamber