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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

New foundation aims to safeguard Hunter’s future

The Hunter’s councils have announced plans to establish a new foundation to safeguard the future of the region by assisting with job creation and economic growth.

The Hunter Joint Organisation, which is made up of the region’s 10 councils, made the announcement in response to scheduled power station and thermal mine closures over the coming decades, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Board chair and Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said the Hunter’s future would include coal, but global demand and use was not something that could be controlled or influenced.

“So, we must look now at how we can address long-term changes to the coal power industry,” he said.

“There are 25,000 people in the Hunter working directly in mining, energy, or in supporting industries and businesses.

“If we act early on this, we have an incredible opportunity to future proof our local economy and create new industries, businesses and employment opportunities right here in the region.

“This foundation will help hundreds of businesses a year and thousands of workers.

“We are looking to partner with industry who have an immediate interest in economic transformation with the closure of both the Liddell and Bayswater power stations scheduled in 2023 and 2035, respectively.”

Singleton mayor Sue Moore said COVID-19 had already shown the impact of global economic shifts, adding the foundation would start by helping those whose employment or business had been affected by the pandemic.

“It will [then] work with the community, the education sector, and business to attract new industries to the Hunter,” she said.

“The foundation will help secure the future we all want; despite the significant changes we are facing.”

The plans have been praised by Hunter Renewal – a project that aims to bring people, businesses and organisations of the Hunter Valley together to envision a diverse, resilient, and thriving future for the region.

Project coordinator Danielle Coleman believed there would be excitement and relief at the establishment of a foundation for economic diversification.

“The Hunter Region has been an economic powerhouse for generations, and we are proud of that,” she said.

“But our dependence on exports of thermal coal means we cannot afford to be complacent.

“If we fail to act, we will experience the same unemployment and disadvantage that usually comes to coal mining regions when markets leave them behind.”

Ms Coleman admitted the foundation’s establishment was just the first step, and called on the NSW Government to provide urgent financial and policy support.

“After making sacrifices for the prosperity of the rest of the state for so many decades, it’s now time for NSW to give the Hunter the money and control it needs to chart our future,” she said.

Visit the Hunter 2050 Foundation website for more information.