Hunter Mayors call for State Gov support

The ten Mayors of Hunter region Council’s co-signed a joint statement to the NSW Government seeking greater support.

THE ten Mayors of the Hunter Joint Association have called for the next elected State Government to provide the region greater support as its economy evolves beyond coal.

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer and MidCoast Mayor Claire Pontin co-signed a joint statement from the region’s local Council leaders last week asking the NSW Government to “step up and work with us for the future of our communities”.

“The Hunter is a region on the precipice of change,” the joint statement said.

“It is a powerhouse whose future will shape the NSW and National economies and radical intervention is required to maintain the liveability and economic prosperity of the Hunter as we approach one million people by 2040.”

The Hunter has the largest regional economy in Australia and drives around 28 percent of regional NSW’s total annual economic output – $23 billion of which can be attributed to coal exports.

“We need to work together, with all levels of government, to build our region’s resilience to changing global energy demands and maintain its significant contribution to Australia’s economies.

“The economic opportunity and value contributed by every individual needs to be maintained and improved as the region diversifies away from coal.

“Urgent support and investment from all levels of government is imperative to address these changing needs and the growing population of the Hunter.”

While there are many issues Councils are collectively advocating for (set out in the Hunter JO Advocacy Priorities), the joint statement calls on the next NSW Government to work with Councils on five key commitments.

1. The region needs a clear and place-based policy and planning approach to drive the region’s economic evolution that is integrated across all levels of government.

This includes a commitment that the next NSW Government will partner with the region’s Councils, through the Hunter JO, to jointly approach the Commonwealth Government to explore a city-region partnership, including the establishment of a place-based entity to lead this economic evolution.

2. We are asking for a commitment to the establishment of a clear and properly resourced process to provide recommendations on policy and legislative change to provide a clear planning pathway to encourage the adaptation and reuse of mining and industrial lands.

3. The development of an Integrated Transport Plan is integral to supporting and unlocking housing and employment outcomes for the region and a commitment needs to be made to fund, resource, and complete a study to establish a clear vision for this.

4. While we need to plan for future connectivity, we also need to deal with current connectivity issues.

We are seeking clarification from the Minister for Transport around the disparity of funds from the Regional and Local Roads Repair Program between rural and regional and Greater Sydney and Outer Metropolitan Councils.

The distribution of these funds has seen Greater Sydney and Outer Metropolitan areas receive 540 percent more funding per kilometre of road than rural and regional areas.

We are also seeking a commitment that the next NSW Government will provide fair and equitable roads funding for rural and regional areas.

5. Similarly, significant funding and investment is needed to implement circular economy and waste management initiatives as a key driver for new jobs, economic growth and sustainability for the Hunter region. Currently, the Waste Levy is collected for the State Government, with only a very small percentage returned directly to Councils for improvements to waste services.

This leaves our region missing out on millions of dollars that could be driving investment in our region.

Council’s need the ability to determine where this funding is best placed and used for the benefit of their communities.

We need the next NSW Government to commit to a process to return 100 percent of the Waste Levy fund to Local Government for reinvestment in Local and Regional communities.

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