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OpinionEconomic transistion on radarBob Hawes

NEW OPPORTUNITIES : The Chamber plans to support transition and growth in the region to promote the Hunter’s ability to contribute to state and national economies.The Chamber has responded to a Productivity Commission study relating to the Transition of Regional Economies.

Terms of reference for the study state that the transition from the mining investment boom to broader-based growth is underway.

This transition is occurring at the same time as our economy is reconciling the impacts of globalisation, technological and environmental change.

The purpose of the study is to examine the regional geography of ’s economic transition, since the mining investment boom, to identify regions and localities that face significant challenges in successfully transitioning to a more sustainable economic base and the factors which will influence their capacity to adapt to changes in economic circumstances.

Our submission highlighted that the Hunter is well recognised as the home of ’s most resilient and diverse regional economy, and is also the largest regional economy in the country.

An unparalleled cross-section of industry calls the Hunter region home.

Newcastle is the eighth largest city in and is renowned for being the world’s largest coal export port.

The contribution to the region, state and nation from the port’s operation has grown exponentially over the past 10 years.

Mining has been a crucial part of the region for many years.

The sector has historically been the top contributor to Gross Regional Product, and that continues to be the case. In 2016 there were record figures for coal exported through the Port of Newcastle, and mining will continue to feature significantly in our region’s broad-based economy into the future.

However, it is important to note that while the Hunter’s economy is diverse, towns and communities that are at the interface of mining have felt a contraction over prior years particularly in the servicesand manufacturing sectors and now is the time to boost this economic activity through strategic investment.

This might not be the impression of some when the activity in Newcastle is noted. This activity is not stretching into the region and there is a delineation west of Maitland whereby towns like Singleton and Muswellbrook have not seen the same growth.

Furthermore, smaller towns like Gloucester, Dungog and Merriwa continue to pursue growth in non-mining sectors.

They now seek to leverage tourism and the visitor economy to assist with maintaining the fabric of these communities.

Taking this into account, our submission called for the Government to invest in infrastructure and projects in other sectors to boost the non-mining sector.

Projects we highlighted as necessary and urgent include investment in road and rail infrastructure, continued investment in health care and support services to match growing population centres, continued expansion of Newcastle Airport and continued investment in the Port of Newcastle, stronger focus on training and education opportunities, and investment in tourism that supports the region’s visitor economy.

Bob Hawes is the CEO of the HunterBusiness Chamber

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