As a trusted voice on business matters, Business Hunter takes a leading role in public discussion on key issues affecting the business and industries specific to our region. We affect policy change through sustained advocacy on plans, projects and issues that will benefit our community.
Initially, we focused on distilling and disseminating to members the vast amount of information flowing through on assistance measures and COVID-19 regulations affecting business to our members. We then moved to providing connection and support for business through webinars and online communications.
Business Hunter representatives sat in on weekly meetings with key government advisors and used that direct line of communication to provide vital and timely feedback on government policy measures, successfully securing an expansion of the small business grant scheme, payroll tax relief and an extension of apprentice and trainee subsidies, among other outcomes.
We have also kept the needs of business front of mind through regular interaction with media:
Business Hunter is a vocal advocate for energy policy that responds both to environmental imperatives and the need for energy affordability and reliability for business and industry. We have maintained pressure on the government to address gaps in energy policy and shortfalls in projected supply from renewable sources. Along with Business NSW, we support gas as a bridge to a cleaner energy future, complementing increased investment in renewables.
Business Hunter has led debate on energy policy, bringing key stakeholders to the region, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison who delivered his 2020 Energy Statement at a function hosted by Business Hunter, Energy Security Board Chief Kerry Schott and NSW Minister for Energy and Resources Matt Kean.
The Business NSW's Business Conditions Surveys consistently point to skills shortages in the Hunter. Business Hunter has maintained pressure on government to address these shortages to ensure that the skills pipeline so vital to our nation’s manufacturing and industry capability is not interrupted. During 2020 we successfully campaigned for an expansion of the subsidy scheme for apprentices and trainees to include new starters to stave off a projected shortfall in new placements and address rising levels of youth unemployment.
Business Hunter strongly advocates for infrastructure that will enable business and industry growth diversification and attract investment to the Hunter region. We endorse Infrastructure Australia’s call in the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit for more investment in satellite cities including Newcastle to ensure that key regions such as the Hunter have capacity to support national growth. We believe investment in priority infrastructure projects will better position the Hunter for sustainable growth and allow the region to continue making a substantial contribution to the state and national economies.
JOHN HUNTER HEALTH AND INNOVATION PRECINCT
Redevelopment of the John Hunter Hospital campus will deliver increased and improved clinical capacity and facilitate an enhanced health, education and research precinct servicing the region and northern NSW. The precinct will meet increasing demand for a broad range of health services and contribute significantly to the development of the region’s knowledge sector, driving employment growth and economic diversification. The NSW Government announced $780 million to fund stage one of the project just weeks after Health Minister Brad Hazzard spoke about the plans at a Business Hunter lunch. We continue to campaign for funding of stage two.
WILLIAMTOWN AEROSPACE PRECINCT
Business Hunter has given strong support to the key projects that will help realise the potential of Newcastle Airport as a national aerospace precinct, leveraging its twin roles as a major regional airport and Australia's premier Defence flight base. In 2020, the state government declared the area a Special Activation Precinct in response to advocacy by regional stakeholders, including Business Hunter. We continue to support Newcastle Airport's campaign for a runway upgrade to Code E standard, which will open new opportunities for trade, tourism, employment and economic investment at this key global gateway.
The redevelopment of the Broadmeadow sports precinct will provide the region with a new community hub and a sporting, entertainment and tourism destination that will boost the Hunter’s growing reputation as a premiere event venue. A Master Plan has been developed for an integrated development combining contemporary residential and community spaces, cafes, restaurants, commercial uses and first class-sports and entertainment facilities. Business Hunter is advocating for funding to advance a comprehensive business case.
We advocate for essential transport infrastructure to keep our region moving. This infrastructure provides connectivity and efficiency to stimulate economic growth, while improving safety and convenience for local communities and ensuring productivity is not stifled by congestion.
FAST RAIL CONNECTION WITH SYDNEY
A fast-rail link to Sydney will have a transformational impact on the economy and liveability of the Hunter, bridging the geographical divide between our region and Australia’s biggest city and financial centre. Faster rail between Sydney and Newcastle will connect jobs for the Hunter, encourage investment and reduce congestion on the M1, making both road and rail transport faster, safer and more convenient.
M1 LINK TO RAYMOND TERRACE
The ‘missing link’ in the national highway route between Sydney and Brisbane, the M1 extension from Black Hill to Raymond Terrace will vastly improve connectivity on one of the most heavily used corridors for freight in NSW, reduce travel times and improve safety for all road users. It is one of the few projects in the Hunter region identified as a near-term priority within the Infrastructure Australia priority list.
NEWCASTLE INNER CITY BYPASS
Completion of the bypass will relieve cross-city traffic congestion and facilitate the expansion of the John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct. The 2020-21 Federal Budget committed $360 million to completing this project and Business Hunter continues to advocate for funding support to Transport NSW to ensure prompt delivery of the final stage.
MUSWELLBROOK AND SINGLETON BYPASSES
The construction of the Singleton and Muswellbrook bypasses will significantly improve efficiency and safety on the Upper Hunter sector of the New England Highway, a major freight and commuter corridor, while relieving the respective townships of a constant flow of heavy-vehicle traffic. The bulk of funding has now been committed to both projects and Business Hunter is maintaining pressure on the state and federal governments to progress the bypasses as a matter of priority.
NELSON BAY ROAD UPGRADE
Improved access to Newcastle Airport and the Port of Newcastle is imperative to realising Greater Newcastle’s potential as a global gateway city. Upgrading Nelson Bay Road and other link roads to these assets will support their growth, boost tourism opportunities and improve connectivity and safety for local communities. While funding has been committed for partial duplication of Nelson Bay Road, Business Hunter is advocating for the double-lane link to continue to Stockton.
LOWER HUNTER FREIGHT RAIL BYPASS
Preservation of the Lower Hunter Freight Rail Corridor is regarded by Business Hunter as a key priority for the region that needs to happen sooner rather than later to provide the certainty necessary for efficient regional planning. The bypass would remove freight rail from the suburban commuter line and improve transport links to the port. Given the westward movement of residential and other development in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, it is imperative that the preferred corridor alignment is identified and preserved in state and local government planning strategies.
Business Hunter has a strong focus on helping local businesses take advantage of emerging opportunities in the Defence sector. We partnered in the establishment of the Hunter Defence Task Force, a collaborative industry group initiative that promotes Hunter region defence industry expertise and capability to drive manufacturing, supply and sustainment opportunities to the region. It also has a strong focus on building regional and state capability by upskilling SMEs to become ‘Defence Ready’. We continue to sit on the Hunter Defence Task Force and provide funding for a regional Defence Industry Advocate.
Business Hunter has been a long time advocate for diversifying the activity of the Port of Newcastle, which is core to the economic sustainability of the Hunter region. The port has substantial capacity for growth but diversification will be critical to its continued role as a state and regional economic driver and its effectiveness as a global gateway for trade and tourism. Its aspirations for the development of a container terminal are currently constrained under the terms of its lease by a financial penalty imposed on container movements above a specified level. Business Hunter supports the removal of this constraint to create a level playing field among east coast ports.