The Hunter has the largest regional economy in Australia, driving around 28% of regional NSW’s total economic output, $23 billion of which can be attributed to coal exports.
We need to work together to build the region’s resilience to changing global energy demands and maintain it’s significant contribution to Australia’s economies. As we approach one million people by 2040, radical intervention is required to maintain the liveability and economic prosperity of the Hunter.
This project was created through collaboration across local and state governments with industry providing some funding to support the groundwork. The Hunter JO had a Blueprint for the regional economy prepared with four key pillars on building the capability of the workforce, transformation of land and water assets, small and medium enterprise diversification and accelerated capital flows to the region for investment.
A funding application to the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery grants for the project was unsuccessful. Despite this and in response to the background work, the state required that the idea of capital flows be tested with the market, and the Hunter Venture Fund project was created as a pivot from the Hunter 2050 Foundation.
The Hunter 2050 was an advocacy focused program that encompassed the priority focus on the issues of economic diversification and transformation within the region. As part of this, there was, and continues to be, a drive to increase engagement and collaboration with the State Government to highlight the importance of local leadership in determining the future of the Hunter. Originally focused on setting up a regional foundation, Hunter 2050 pivoted to an advocacy project following a Board Meeting at the end of 2021.
One of the key activities of Hunter 2050 is to support and influence State and Federal Government initiatives to ensure that investment is directed to initiatives that will have an enduring benefit in transforming the Hunter’s economy.
As part of our advocacy around economic diversification, we are leading or participating on several projects and committees including the Expert Panel and Royalties for Rejuvenation fund. You can read about these on our Place-Based Regional Economic Development page.
Hunter 2050 Foundation – History
Hunter 2050 was a regional response to economic resilience, and it is imperative that the region and the state respond strategically and proactively before any further acceleration in downsizing occurs of traditional industries. There has already been success in securing a series of dedicated commitments from the NSW Government such as the Hunter Expert Panel, the Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund and the Hunter Renewable Energy Zone.
Development of the Concept
There was a significant amount of work that went into the development of the Hunter 2050 Foundation concept. This included:
- Overall concept design in the form of a Blueprint, including phased development and creation of the foundation including funding sought (total of $15m with $3m per year over 5 years)
- Development and implementation of stakeholder engagement group and workshops to develop the concept
- Further detailing of the concept undertaken
- Evolution of Hunter 2050 Foundation to Hunter 2050 and the testing of the need or otherwise for an innovation fund for the region (i.e. Hunter Venture Fund)
The Hunter JO, together with its project partner AGL, began progressing plans to establish a regional foundation to lead economic diversification and transformation – the Hunter 2050 Foundation.
The reason for this was to address not only the immediate impacts of COVID-19, bushfire and drought, but also the need to address economic change driven by power station closures and 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.
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.
Additional work has been undertaken to scope the need for and application of the Hunter 2050 Foundation project. For example, a series of meetings with lead consultants identified the need for community mandate work to build the pillars for a regional transformation.