Hunter Regional Plan

17th March 2016

Mr GREG PIPER: My question is directed to the Minister for Planning. What consideration has been made for the provision of funding essential to implementing key components of the Hunter Regional Plan over the life of the plan, once adopted?

Mr ROB STOKES: I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question and for his commitment to his beautiful electorate and the incredible region of which it forms a part. To paraphrase the Minister for Finance, Services and Property, there has never been a more exciting time to live in the Hunter region.

The SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will come to order.

Mr ROB STOKES: Not only is it home to the second-largest city in New South Wales but also it is home to the largest regional economy in Australia—an economy bigger than the Northern Territory, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. It is an incredible place to visit, to do business in and in which to live.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will come to order.

Mr ROB STOKES: It is one of the regions for which we are currently preparing a spatial regional plan. As I have said previously in this House, we are currently engaged in preparing regional plans for every region across New South Wales.

The SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will come to order. The member for Cessnock will cease inciting disorder.

Mr ROB STOKES: We are preparing spatial regional plans across all of New South Wales. For the first time in New South Wales' history, every part of the State will be specifically planned at a spatial and regional level, including the Hunter. The Hunter will see incredible growth over the coming 40 to 50 years. The Hunter city—that is, the City of Newcastle and its related conurbation—will grow from about 430,000 people today to around 750,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Charlestown will cease interjecting.

Mr ROB STOKES: Getting the planning for the region right will be absolutely crucial. We all know that Newcastle is the largest coal port in the world, but the region is about so much more than just coal. We know that it has some of the finest gourmet food and wine in the world. Recently the Premier and I joined the member for Upper Hunter to visit some of the world's most spectacular thoroughbred studs. We know also that in terms of education and energy innovation both the University of Newcastle and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, as well as the CSIRO in terms of its renewable energy resources, are a huge part of the growing and diverse Hunter economy. In terms of the visitor economy, the Hunter has some of the finest beaches in the world. The Barrington Tops area has incredible biodiversity and scenery. It is an incredible region and an incredibly diverse economy.

It is so important that we plan not just spatially but also for the infrastructure needs. There is plenty going on in this space already in terms of the $790 million in funding through Restart NSW, and the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund [HIIF]. Already more than 30 projects have been funded through more than $400 million provided in the HIIF. An extra $50 million in the HIIF is currently in the process of being allocated. There are huge infrastructure projects underway in terms of election commitments—more than $1.5 billion for regional road projects with bypasses of the Pacific Highway, M1 and the New England Highway. An incredible range of health and education projects currently being funded are identified under the plan.

Obviously as the plan proceeds over 20 years there will be a series of funding decisions about infrastructure identified in the plan in the out years. What we are doing now in terms of infrastructure investment is laying the foundations for great prosperity and great growth in the Hunter. We know that crazy things can happen in a democracy. We know, for example, that Donald Trump is leading in the Republican race and, while any sensible person would say the next 20 years will be dominated by the great Baird-Grant Coalition Government, in a dystopian future—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Macquarie Fields will cease interjecting. The member for Prospect will cease interjecting.

Mr ROB STOKES: —who knows? We could be talking to Premier Crakanthorp. In the Crakanthorp Government—if that were to eventuate—he would have an incredible legacy of great infrastructure delivered by the Grant-Baird Government. Minister for Health Aitchison would be able to deliver new wings to the Hunter hospital.

Pursuant to standing order additional information provided.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has been relevant to the question.

Mr ROB STOKES: We are getting on with delivering the new Hunter hospital.

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