The Hunter Business Chamber was pleased to host the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, in Newcastle last week for a special dinner event attended by more than 260 business, government and community leaders.

HBC partnered with the Hunter Research Foundation Centre to host the Minister, who spoke on the theme The Hunter Ahead: Driving the Region’s Future.

In a wide-ranging speech – and an even wider-ranging Q&A session that followed – Mr Stokes touched on many topics of interest for the region. These included:
  • the impact of the CBD revitalisation
  • the merits of the proposed Newcastle Airport runway upgrade
  • economic resilience and diversification
  • Port of Newcastle’s container terminal aspirations
  • mine rehabilitation
  • Aboriginal heritage
  • metro vs regional funding
  • the importance of a university presence in the inner city.

The Minister also used his visit to announce that the Newcastle GasDock Company proposal for a floating liquefied natural gas terminal at Kooragang had been given ‘critical’ planning status by the NSW Government.

The Chamber welcomed the announcement, given the potential of the $589 million gas import terminal to address energy security and affordability issues in the region and across NSW.

If approved, this project would significantly increase supply of gas and competition in the sector, hopefully resulting in a better deal for energy consumers. It will also contribute to diversification of the port and the regional economy.

Regional focus in Infrastructure Audit

The release last week of the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit provided a timely reminder of the benefits of investing in infrastructure in regions such as the Hunter.

The report by Infrastructure Australia highlights the potential of smaller cities and satellite regions to alleviate the pressure on congested capital cities. It suggests governments can get value for money by investing in regional areas, where there is opportunity to support growth at a scale of additional investment significantly less than in capital cities.

The audit also notes that well-targeted infrastructure investment is critical to supporting international competitiveness, which reinforces the importance in this region of investing in our airport, port and national highway links, as well as social infrastructure such as the John Hunter Hospital Precinct redevelopment.

Infrastructure Australia has called for feedback on the 136 challenges and 44 opportunities identified in the audit and the Chamber will prepare a submission. Any members who would like to contribute can send comments to Policy and Public Affairs Manager Amy De Lore at

Infrastructure Australia CEO Romilly Madew will be our guest speaker for the Hunter Business Chamber Infrastructure Series lunch at Merewether Surfhouse on Friday 30 August. We look forward to hearing more from her about the audit and regional infrastructure priorities at that event.

If you would like to join us, you can book through the HBC website

Kind regards,

Bob Hawes, CEO Hunter Business Chamber