Drivers and opportunities
Although further structural adjustment is likely, the Hunter economy is expected to continue growing, with output expected to increase by 75% to around $64.8 billion by 2036. An economy in transition, the region is well placed to build on its existing economic strengths and capitalise on new and emerging opportunities in both the domestic and Asian markets.
The mining sector and allied industries, such as construction and transport, are expected to remain key drivers for economic growth despite recording a decline in GRP growth between 2011 and 2013, following the mining boom. In 2014, the long-term lease of the Port of Newcastle provided the NSW Government with $1.75 billion to fund new economic and social infrastructure (through Restart NSW). In addition to the $120 million already committed, around $340 million of proceeds from the long-term lease will be invested in the revitalisation of Newcastle CBD.
A further $100 million of Restart NSW funds will be used to provide additional Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund (HIIF) projects. The potential improvements in the Port of Newcastle's operations (through new management) should also positively impact the region's productivity. Further opportunities are expected in the knowledge-based service sectors – including expansion in the tertiary education sector (anchored by the University of Newcastle).
The defence sector can also capitalise on opportunities, with the RAAF Base at Williamtown becoming one of two main bases for 72 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft being purchased by the Federal Government. Tourism is one sector identified as having potential for international growth. Recent trade agreements with Japan and Korea will help make the region's wine and agriculture industries more competitive in these markets.