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Hunter Region must have a unified voice


May 9, 2019 by admin

THE Hunter is one unique region that is part of an integrated national network of regions that need our successes just as we need theirs.

There have been enough wish-lists and stand-alone plans. Now there must be a unified voice spelling out how infrastructure and planning are significant to the region regardless of local boundaries. This is the message that Regional Development Australia Hunter is sending to the NSW and federal governments. It is a message that local government can help advance.

And the good part is that both state and federal governments tell us that this is what they want and expect to hear if we are to win the support and funding for major infrastructure in our region.

Quite rightly there are a number of groups with planning obligations for much of our land use, our local infrastructure and our social structures. While they recognise that the specific interests of their constituents and responsibilities can appear to fly in the face of regional needs, the result has been that confused messages reach funding decision makers. No more confusion!

In our paper, Urban Planning for the Hunter’s Future, being launched at today’s CEDA (Committee of Economic Development of Australia) conference in Newcastle, we present a number of recommendations to take the Hunter forward with great success.

RDA Hunter maintains that while this is a region of unique qualities and makes a unique contribution to the prosperity of the nation, it does not stand alone. It is an integrated region whose connectivity to metropolitan Sydney and surrounding regions is the key to ensuring that sustainable and productive growth occurs across the region to the benefit of the state, the nation and local communities.

Major decisions by governments on infrastructure planning and investment over the next 12 to 18 months will have a significant impact on the future lifestyles, employment options and well-being of people living in the region. Therefore RDA Hunter recommends that regional planning agencies adopt a collaborative approach to address government urban policy and consider the regional relationships.

It is vital to get the balance right between population, land use and housing supply; for employment and economically and socially significant infrastructure; and delivery of services.

The Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan and the revised Lower Hunter Regional Strategy must be brought together to present a single and interconnected Hunter Regional Strategy.

Future regional planning efforts must have regard to the planning hierarchy in the national planning criteria for Australia’s cities, and provide appropriate levels of detail for near, medium and long-term plans and projects.

As Australia’s seventh largest urban area, the Hunter Region must have a plan for the future.

The importance of retaining sectoral diversity, linking infrastructure to promote economic development and improving our connectivity with markets beyond our boundaries is crucial for the region’s prosperity.

A plan for the future of our urban area is even more important when it is understood that all major infrastructure funding decisions will be based on having a plan.

A metropolitan/urban plan for the Hunter is critical for the region’s future. Effectively connecting populations, ideas, goods, freight and communities is essential to be able to best leverage much-needed infrastructure.

Regional-scale planning documents must contain significantly greater detail about future infrastructure and its relationship to land use to allow public and private sector co-ordination of investment over time.

We are confident these messages will be heard by Australian governments, which are demonstrating a renewed interest in cities including major regional cities.

While at a local level we have a number of cities defined by local government boundaries, the whole Lower Hunter region is regarded as a city in terms of the Australian government’s planning criteria for Australia’s major cities.

The purpose of this approach, and one well understood in this region, is to ensure cities are globally competitive, productive, sustainable, liveable, socially inclusive and well placed to meet future challenges and growth.

The Hunter intends to be a vital part of this new era.

This work to develop an integrated plan will overcome the enormous cost and disadvantage to the region of too many overlapping but unrelated regional plans and assist in positioning the Hunter nationally and internationally as one of Australia’s most sustainable, productive and significant economies.

VISION: A balance must be struck between population and infrastructure. Picture: Dean Osland


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