‘The Hunter region is vulnerable to global changes in the market for coal and this could leave thousands of people jobless, landscapes unrehabilitated, and the region in economic recession if there are no plans and actions in place to stimulate job creation in alternative industries.’ This extract from the Hunter Renewal Roadmap website could easily have been written about the Mudgee region. We also face a time of transition that needs appropriate planning.
What have they done in the Hunter? Belief and community are at the heart of their plans: ‘Together we can protect our region, create new jobs and produce a diverse economy that can withstand shocks and uncertainty in mining, be they short-term declines or longer term trends.’
‘Hunter Renewal is a project that was initially envisaged by the Hunter Central Rivers Alliance and Lock the Gate. Both groups are focussed on supporting regional communities to make decisions for themselves about their future. Initial door-knocking in the Hunter of over 3,000 households found 90% of people spoken to wanted a plan for the future of the region after coal mining. It was evident that no one in politics or business was supporting the development of a community-driven plan, so these groups stepped in to address the gap.
In February 2019, when 100 people came together to talk about the region’s future, a Hunter Renewal Working Group was established to lead Hunter Renewal. The working group is focussed on supporting the diversification and resilience of the Hunter and make sure that the region that has given so much for the prosperity of New South Wales is supported to adapt and grow into the future.
The region has expertise in energy, civil engineering, manufacturing, food production, wine growing, tourism and agriculture. It connects to the world via the Port of Newcastle and the rail line that can deliver Hunter products for export. It has exceptional natural beauty, biodiversity and water resources and vibrant towns and villages.
Past experiences of structural change in mining and energy industries from Australia and around the world provide us with the lessons we need to ensure a positive transition for our region to protect us against declines in coal. Key elements of successful transitions include:
- Early preparation well in advance of change
- Strong community leadership and participation
- Consistent and clear policy support from governments
- Allocation of substantial public finances
- Worker retraining and re-employment
- Detailed economic diversification plans