It would be unwise for anyone to lay a prediction on how 2022 will play out in terms of health, pandemics, vaccines and those godforsaken lockdowns. As we have learned from the recent state government announcement it is clear that recovery pathways are subject to change. From early December, the business sector in the Hunter has been subjected to the virus’s cruel twists. Business and the community get the green light from government to behave close to normal, to open up, and to welcome back valued clientele… and we know what the reality has actually looked like for business since 15 December.
On 23 December, some capacity restrictions were reintroduced. The reversion to some of these measures and the potential to further impact trade, intended or not, at a time that should be busiest for business was another bend in the pathway. It sent a message of increasing concern on the part of our regulators further pulling the community into their shell.
We have written to key decision-makers in the Perrottet Government’s COVID Recovery team to highlight the pain Hunter businesses are feeling. We have called for a consideration of extending or returning business support packages or tailoring new financial measures that can help mitigate the circumstances in which many businesses find themselves through no fault of their own.
After all the work done to help businesses through the worst of 2021 lockdowns, we hope the Premier and his team will heed our calls to continue to provide some support for businesses struggling, rather than let the government’s extensive efforts unravel at the end. And of course, we must advocate for all the workers who have been sidelined and risk earning no income at a time when expectations are high.
So, what can we anticipate for the beginning of 2022 and beyond? Is there activity that will earn our attention outside of the COVID bubble? Business Hunter thinks so. The past year has in fact revealed a bright future for the Hunter and recognition we can do more for the state and the nation.
It is important for our region to develop a future that builds on sectors and industry that already support us. Business Hunter knows the best way to grow the region is to support and expand business and industry that is already operating here. If these are strong, they become an attractor in themselves and new industry and those wanting to secure strategic partnerships will gravitate here.
The regions collaborators are working to build a strong skills investment attraction and retention strategy and bring together many stakeholders and industry leaders to address labour shortages, strategies to re-skill workers displaced so they are well positioned to participate in new industries, and capitalise on the jobs growth opportunities present across our region. We will be leaning into our membership and partners to leave no stone unturned to make the most of what the Hunter has to offer. Our focus is on viable futures for the next generation of businesses that employ people and establish workforces that support communities.
Our relationship with existing and new key state government ministers and agencies with a focus on boosting investment and trade into the region will be important to cultivate. At a federal level, we’ll be lurching into an election and the prospect of marginal seats in the Hunter excites many. We will serve ourselves well if we can articulate our advocacy such that a collaborative approach on economic and social pillars continue on a world-class trajectory to support the investment potential over the next few years. These things can be certainties for our region as we continue to connect the dots of opportunity and push in the same direction as a region.
And so, amidst the residual uncertain and the foggy COVID look ahead for 2022, I’m confident that there are enough nuggets of opportunity on the near and far horizon for the Hunter. What we need to keep a keen eye on is wise actions and investments that build up our region and prepare us for strong and resilient future. What is also very clear is that we as a region and a major city in Australia have everything it takes to deliver just that.