Aug 31, 2012

Investing in The Hunter’s future prosperity

The Federal Labor Government will assist in the development of a long term infrastructure blueprint for the Hunter, underscoring our efforts to support the region’s growth and cement its position as one of Australia’s most important economic powerhouses.

To be developed by Infrastructure NSW and the Hunter Regional Development Committee in consultation with industry and the community, the Hunter Economic Infrastructure Plan will identify and prioritise the region’s strategic road, rail, port, energy and water needs, not just for the next two years but over the next two decades.

This work is all about looking over the horizon and anticipating future challenges, a process which will ensure that we get the right investment in the right projects at the right time.

Importantly, the Plan will build on the work that’s already been done, including the 2009 Lower Hunter Transport Needs Study, as well as complement the State Infrastructure Strategy, the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan and the RDA Regional Plan, which are all due to be released in coming months.

Development of the Plan will begin next month, with a draft version expected to be published by April 2013. In addition to $450,000 in Federal funding, further financial support for the project is being provided by Infrastructure NSW and Regional Development Australia (Hunter).

But we are not only focused on unlocking the region’s full economic potential. Federal Labor is also working with local councils and the State Government to make Newcastle and the Hunter an even better place to live, work and raise a family. As part of our Liveable Cities Program we are supporting the region’s ambition to become a leader in urban design, planning and renewal.

As well as planning for the future, Federal Labor is also making an unprecedented investment in the Hunter’s more immediate infrastructure needs. In particular, we’ve initiated construction of the Hunter Expressway, accelerated work on the Bulahdelah Bypass and undertaken the most extensive upgrade of the region’s rail network in generations.

These projects alone represent more than a $3 billion investment in the Hunter’s future.

As Australia’s sixth largest regional centre, the Hunter is today home to the world’s largest coal export port, produces a third of Australia’s aluminium output, supplies two-thirds of NSW’s electricity needs, boasts international-renown vineyards and is one of the largest horse breeding areas in the world.

Indeed, for almost two centuries this region has played a major role in Australia’s extraordinary transformation from a colonial outpost to a modern, prosperous society and with proper long term planning and the right support from government there’s no reason why its role in our country’s future can’t be just as significant.

Today’s announcement is the latest example of Federal Labor’s determination to reinvest a significant proportion of the wealth created by our natural resources back into strengthening regional communities and securing our nation’s long term prosperity.

All up, we will put almost $6 billion from our Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) into the Regional Infrastructure Fund. The MRRT is also funding tax relief for small businesses, better superannuation for workers and extra assistance for families.