The Hunter Joint Organisation, together with its project partner AGL, is progressing plans to establish a regional foundation to lead economic diversification and transformation – The Hunter 2050 Foundation.
In addition to the immediate impacts of COVID-19, bushfire and drought, the Hunter needs to grapple with economic change driven by power station closures, potential uncertainty about future mining investment and global market and technology trends. In regions that confront significant economic transformation, dedicated organisations are generally created to lead transformation efforts.
In November 2019, the Board of the Hunter JO, guided by its Sub-Committee on Economic Transition, agreed to invest in a project to explore the establishment of a Foundation to provide local leadership on economic diversification and transformation in the region.
AGL came on as a partner in the project and have an immediate interest in economic transformation with the closure of both the Liddell and Bayswater Power Stations scheduled within the next decade.
The Hunter JO has been consulting on the Foundation project with key players in Hunter Industry and across State and Federal Government.
Discussions with stakeholders across the Hunter reveal widespread agreement that the Hunter is well positioned to manage economic risks, but only if it acts now.
In April this year, informed by this consultation, the Board resolved to approach the Minister for Local Government, for permission to form the Foundation (an important pre-condition to be met under the Local Government Act before the Joint Organisation could proceed).
At the same meeting the Board agreed the key focuses of the Foundation, being:
- a specialised local investment and redevelopment agency and take a direct role in the industrial changes needed to transition the economy.
- also support businesses and workers impacted by changes in the economy. Dedicated innovation and transition support services, built on successful models deployed in other regions of Australia, will ensure that supply chains and workers can begin to plan their future as key customers or employers close facilities.
- provide a platform for better information, collaboration and agreement on the diversification strategy for the Hunter, building on the partnerships and collaboration that are growing in the region.
Together, these efforts represent an innovative model for economic leadership that is proactive, market driven and locally led. It draws on the best models in Australia, whilst moving beyond the typical suite of government-led structural adjustment policies of the past by focusing on engaging in key markets to accelerate investment and redevelopment.