The federal government has been invited to partner with Hunter councils on more than $400 million worth of projects designed to kick start the Hunter's post-pandemic economy.
The Committee for the Hunter and the Hunter Joint Organisation are championing the projects, which will deliver immediate and region-wide stimulus to local economies across the region's 10 local government areas.
Ranging from road upgrades to water treatment centres, the council projects have been chosen to complement the three major infrastructure projects - a multi-purpose deepwater terminal, upgrading Newcastle Airport's runway and the construction of the University of Newcastle STEMM Regional Transformation Hub- that form the Ready to Rebuild campaign.
A particular focus of the projects is their ability to benefit sectors of the Hunter economy that have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19.
"These projects are already part of the vision of each council and the communities they represent. It is simply a question of how quickly we can achieve these outcomes," Bob Pynsent, Cessnock mayor and chairman of the Hunter Joint Organisation, said.
"We have the collective capability and capacity to deliver and we are ready to rebuild our economy after the impacts of recent natural disasters and COVID-19.
"We hope the federal government will collaboratively partner with us to accelerate the delivery of these projects for our communities."
The nominated projects include upgrades and expansions to tourist facilities, safety upgrades to local roads, improvements to public transport facilities, construction of regional and local cycleway infrastructure, renewal of neighbourhood centres and the construction and upgrade of water supply treatment centres.
Dungog council is seeking to construct a series of high-quality trails and support facilities across the shire.
"If you have high-quality trails and all the support facilities that people look for to value-add to their experience then people will stay overnight or longer and invest further in the local economy," Dungog Commons chairwoman Kate Murphy said.
"Infrastructure support across the region for adventure pursuits such as mountain, gravel, and road biking will be a game-changer for our communities. The outdoor recreation market is growing and what we are currently experiencing in Dungog is a testament to that. Trade has increased by 300 per cent, with more than 500 riders visiting Dungog each week."
Tourism operator Will Creedon said the region's tourism sector would be a major beneficiary of the projects.
"With its magnificent diversified landscape, cities and industries, the Hunter is a regional city to Asia and the world with a significant and rapidly growing tourism and visitor economy," he said.
"Local government infrastructure will develop connectivity and accessibility within the region, which is complementary to investment in the airport, which then enhances connectivity and accessibility to the region."
Singleton Council is seeking support to complete its three-stage town centre revitalisation project.
Stage one of the project, valued at $14million, is complete and Stage two, valued at, $7million, is under construction.
Stage three, which the council is seeking funding for, focuses on the southern end of John Street.
It incorporates the railway station which will help drive visitation to Singleton through ease of access via rail transport.
"In its totality, our list of needed infrastructure projects has been compiled to represent the greatest value of investment for the Singleton local government area," Singleton Chamber of Commerce and business owner Sue Gilroy said.
"They have great potential to deliver economic outcomes across a range of facets including retail, hospitality, viticulture, arts and culture, and tourism.
"Most significantly, each of these projects would also result in substantial job creation and accompanying economic injection in our local economy."
MidCoast Council is seeking to improve water security in its local government area by constructing a 600 megalitre off-river storage dam near Gloucester.
The dam would enable harvesting of water during periods of healthy flow in the Barrington River to conserve for periods when river flows are low.
The project has the added benefit of maintaining environmental flows by limiting water extraction during periods of low flow. Water would be pumped from the Barrington River into the dam for storage, and from there it would be pumped to the Gloucester Water Treatment Plant on demand.
Former Liverpool City Council chief executive and current coordinator general of the Department of Planning and Environment's planning delivery unit Kiersten Fishburn said she had experienced first-hand the benefits of councils working together for broader regional outcomes.
"Liverpool was one of eight councils in the Western Sydney City Deal which built strong relationships between the councils, state and Commonwealth governments and gave a real focus to making big regional decisions," she said.
"Local government has a deep and special understanding of granular and particular place issues and opportunities. To be able to elevate that discussion through the City Deal governance led to genuine collaboration and far better place based planning.
"I see real opportunities for the collaboration demonstrated in the Hunter and look forward to the planning delivery unit playing an active part in realising the local vision for growth."
HunterNet's industry advisor Boris Novak said the many of the network's members stood to benefit from the shovel-ready projects across the region.
"HunterNet provides member companies with the opportunity to take part in activities previously out of reach of smaller enterprises. Our member companies operate across the region in manufacturing, engineering and specialist services," he said.
"A pipeline of shovel-ready, local council projects that our members can participate in, will deliver a broad dispersal of stimulus funds across the region at a time when confidence is increasingly hard to come by."
"We applaud the Hunter Joint Organisation for taking action to give these infrastructure projects the momentum they need , and clearly demonstrating that the Hunter Region is very worthy and deserving of attention."
Federal Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon has made representations to the government in support of the projects.
"We know from the Global Financial Crisis that one of the most effective means of saving local jobs and businesses is to fund local government to deliver key infrastructure projects that stimulate economic activity," she said.
"There's no shortage of fantastic local projects that can starting hiring people and get to work almost immediately with some Federal Government investment."
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