The Hunter's economic transformation is being hindered by a 'culture war' over coal and energy policy, a new discussion paper about structural adjustment in the region argues.
The paper, No Regrets, planning for economic change in the Hunter, outlines a series of actions that need to occur to ensure the region's economic sustainability during a period of unprecedented structural change.
The Hunter Jobs Alliance, which consists of 13 union, community and environment groups, will launch the discussion paper at Rutherford on Thursday evening.
The 22-page document argues there is an urgent need to have a unified and 'common sense conversation' about how to deal with economic change in the region.
"The region is clearly being held back by a 'culture war' that has developed around coal and energy," the paper says.
"This distracts us from planning for economic change, and deters investment. A fragmented set of local interests have not (as yet) been able to articulate a collective, shared vision on these issues."
It identifies four actions that are needed to help the region deal with structural change. These include the creation of a local structural change authority, a major reinvestment of coal royalties in structural change planning, well-resourced and evidence-based actions to support working people and attract investment, and setting clear expectations regarding worker support for large employers undertaking closure or retrenchments.
"The truth is the future is uncertain, but the trajectory is clear. People only need to look at the scheduled closure of our coal fired power stations or the threats of a changing grid for major employers like aluminium smelting to see change is well and truly on its way," Hunter Jobs Alliance coordinator Warrick Jordan said.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Cory Wright called for a better quality discussion about the future of jobs in the Hunter.
"If we don't get this right and address it up front workers will bear the brunt of the impacts and the Hunter will become just another case study where people regretted not working together or acting early enough to deal with change," he said.
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