Port of Newcastle has enlisted recently departed NSW Nationals state director Ross Cadell to lead its campaign to secure a major container terminal.
Mr Cadell will start work as the privately owned port's special projects director on February 3 with the specific aim of convincing the state government to back the project.
"I am confident that Ross will work productively with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to deliver this critical infrastructure and unlock the many benefits for the state," port boss Craig Carmody said in a media statement on Wednesday.
The port is embroiled in a dispute with the government over its once-secret agreement with NSW Ports, the owners of Port Botany and Port Kembla, to penalise Newcastle financially if it developed a rival terminal.
The row has drawn in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which has launched Federal Court action against NSW Ports over a deal it labelled "anti-competitive and illegal". The court has ordered the ACCC, NSW Ports and the government to start mediation before April 3.
The NSW Nationals' annual conference last July called on the government to remove "all obstacles" to developing a Newcastle container terminal.
Mr Cadell said in the port statement that he had a strong working relationships with key figures in the government, including Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
"The Nationals in government have strongly supported the development of this project, with members voting at the last conference to formally endorse it, and I will work with them to get it done," he said.
Mr Cadell's appointment as a port lobbyist comes a day after the Committee for the Hunter advocacy group named former Malcolm Turnbull senior policy adviser Alice Thompson as its first chief executive.
Mr Cadell, a Novocastrian, said he was focused on ensuring the region continued to have a strong industrial presence as the economy transitions.
"For the longest time BHP underpinned our town," Mr Cadell said.
"We all remember too well what happened when we lost the steelworks, but this is a great opportunity for the port to power our economy for generations to come and put that site to productive use again."