So the state government has identified a huge zone in the lower valley for future housing, a triangle with corners at Branxton, Cessnock and Maitland. Fair enough, we might say. The rising population has to go somewhere.
But where are the roads?
There's no population estimate for this future tract of suburbia, but it looks like at least a 100,000-person extension of Greater Newcastle, adding to 140,000 who are already in the Cessnock and Maitland local government areas.
Beyond the government's current thinking, there must be a high chance that the inside of the triangle will eventually fill up, more than doubling the population that's already in prospect.
Even the most committed advocate of public transport should admit that so many people will generate a lot of traffic.
So where are the arterial roads? Where are the broken lines drawn on planning maps, showing future roads passing through land that is still empty and therefore ready for reservation - roads that can be planned now to ensure that future generations don't have to choose between demolitions and traffic jams?
There are none.
And while while a population surge is just starting for Kurri Kurri, Cessnock, Branxton and Greta, there's been one underway at Maitland for years - and there, too, we see a lack of state planning for at least one major road that will obviously be needed.
There is something badly wrong in the NSW government. This nonsense is hardly planning at all.
Several times this series of articles has referred to the Northumberland County District scheme, the great urban plan devised just after World War II and formally issued in 1960 to ensure that Greater Newcastle could comfortably grow in following decades, as it has.
To produce it, the state government created a planning authority, the Northumberland County Council, in 1948. The chief county planner was Frank Stone, and the old Department of Main Roads helped him by designing most of the scheme's network of high-capacity thoroughfares. These included almost all the major roads we use today.
If he were still alive, Stone would have found inexplicable the idea that the state government could designate a vast tract of the lower valley for future residential use but not provide proper transportation connections. So would have Jim McGirr, the premier whose Labor government understood the need for long-term preparation for urban growth and created the county council.
We should name two suburbs after Stone and McGirr, and a major road after the then commissioner for main roads, Alfred Toyer.
The worthies who presided over long-term planning documents issued in 2018 for Greater Newcastle should expect no such honours. They would include Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance and the then planning minister, Anthony Roberts.
So what roads should the government have devised for the Branxton-Cessnock-Maitland residential zone? In 1948-60 the government did not imagine suburbia spreading 50 km northwest from the coast, so this article, unlike earlier ones in the series, cannot simply propose reviving Northumberland-scheme solutions.
Instead, what follows are rough suggestions that state experts should work out in detail or replace with better ideas.
We can start with the southern side of the triangle, from Maitland to Cessnock. Growth there is already underway, especially at Gillieston Heights.
An earlier Hunter Essay urged the government to prepare to eventually put the Maitland-Cessnock railway line into service for passenger use. But better roads will be needed long before then.
The current vehicle route is formed by semi-rural roads and by streets that zigzag through Kurri Kurri. A lot of it can be widened for local traffic, but urban planning should shift cars away from where people work and shop - not only to improve the quality of their lives but to avoid chokepoints. So we're talking about bypasses.
In principle, the government could plan a bypass around Gillieston Heights, another around Kurri Kurri and Weston and one more around Cessnock. But it would be better simply to plan a continuous bypass for all of them.
As a first step, then, land for such a road should be reserved on the north side of the current route - not the southern side, because there's likely to be more urban growth on the inside of the triangle than its outside.
At Cessnock, this bypass would turn right and head up to Branxton, possibly as an upgrade of Wine Country Drive. At Branxton it would meet the motorway, turn right again and head back to Maitland.
So it would be an arterial loop for the triangle, and the Hunter Expressway would run through the middle as a connection to denser suburbs and workplaces in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas.
Looking even further ahead, the state should also plan for an outer loop. Building that would not be at all excessive, because we're discussing a huge expanse of new urban land here: each side of the Branxton-Cessnock-Maitland triangle is 20-25 km long.
If the triangle really will have more than 100,000 people, plus those who are already there, it will also need a good southward connection to the Pacific Motorway. (Neither a motorway connection nor an outer loop is shown on the accompanying map.)
Maitland itself does not have adequate provision for arterial roads - but that's not surprising, because the state is hardly planning for new major roads anywhere in Greater Newcastle.
It's interesting to think that only about 40 years ago, all traffic going up and down the valley poured through High Street, Maitland. Since then, Maitland has got an inner bypass, an outer bypass, and, with the Hunter Expressway, one more bypass.
But it will soon need yet another, to avoid overloading the highway through East Maitland and Rutherford - and, importantly, to get the traffic away from people who live there.
"Traffic in Maitland has increased significantly and everywhere you go when travelling east to west you have to use the New England Highway," says the mayor of Maitland, Cr Loretta Baker.
A council planning study of 2009 called for a bypass to the south. The obvious route would run from the highway-motorway connection at Beresfield and pass south of Ashtonfield and East Maitland. In my view, it should also extend to become the northeastern leg of the arterial loop discussed above.
Land for this is mostly empty and available.
"A southern bypass remains something which I personally would love to see come to fruition," says Baker.
As with other future transportation connections discussed in Hunter Essays, the idea is not to tell the government to build a road immediately - because traffic does not yet demand it. Rather, we just need plans and reservations.
Another important project for Maitland will be widening Raymond Terrace Road to four lanes, which will presumably happen eventually. But at its western end this road has no good connection to the highway.
One can be built on the northwestern side of Morpeth Road, extending from Cumberland Street. Again, the land should be reserved.
If the government is really looking ahead, it should consider whether Raymond Terrace Road should be linked to a new bypass to the north of Maitland, ultimately reaching Aberglasslyn. I am not proposing that, but merely suggesting that proper long-term planning should examine whether it will ultimately be necessary.