News and published articles in 2017 and 2016

  • Government releases Upper Hunter Action Plan

    Wednesday, 10 May, 2017


    The NSW Government has released an Upper Hunter Economic Diversification Project Action Plan – prepared by the Government’s Hunter Regional Leadership Executive – that sets renewed priorities for encouraging new business and employment opportunities and sustainable regional transition for the region.

    The NSW Government has partnered with local government and industry to examine the future of the Upper Hunter region (see map) over the next 20-25 years. The Plan establishes a new framework to encourage sustainable economic transition objectives, through planning built on partnerships with regional stakeholders that interweaves diversification priorities into regional land use planning.

    The Plan:

    guides priorities for the NSW Government’s commitment to promote sustainable economic transition for the Hunter region;

    focuses on transitions impacting the local government areas of Dungog, Muswellbrook, Singleton and Upper Hunter, considering links to the Hunter region as a whole and surrounding regions; and

    works within the implementation framework established by the Department of Planning and Environment for the Hunter Regional Plan 2036 and delivers on the Government commitment in that plan to develop the Upper Hunter Economic Diversification Project report.

    Read the Upper Hunter Economic Diversification Project Action Plan

    Read more CONTACT HRF CENTRE Download pdf (1.08 MB)
  • Agribusiness strategic to Upper Hunter economy

    Tuesday, 9 May, 2017

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    The HRF Centre’s latest Upper Hunter Region Economic Indicators tell a positive story of economic recovery in the December 2016 quarter, including a new wave of business and consumer confidence, and a marked fall in the unemployment rate.

    Upper Hunter* residents’ expectations for the regional economy in the next three months were positive on balance, recording their best reading since 2005. Their longer-term expectations of the regional economy were the strongest since late 2010, during the mining investment boom. Business owners were also markedly more positive about the economy than in the last three years. Their hiring and capital expenditure intentions signal prospects for continuing economic improvement to come.

    The renewed optimism we are seeing in the Upper Hunter is supported by the recovering labour market, an upswing in commodity prices and strong performance by agriculture. Nationally, the agricultural industry was the biggest contributor to annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, with farm production forecast to reach a record $63.8 billion in 2016-17. The depreciation of the Australian dollar, good weather and rising world prices have been key factors in the agricultural sector’s strong performance, underpinned by growth in global demand for food and improved farm productivity.

    At our Upper Hunter economic breakfast in Muswellbrook on 2 May, our audience heard about the region’s agricultural strengths and opportunities for future growth in this important sector. Lead consultant on the NSW Government’s 2016 Upper Hunter Industry Scenarios report Michael Connell (pictured) saidthat agribusiness plays a strategic role in the Upper Hunter economy, with more than 1900 businesses employing 2,300 people and generating $500 million in 2015, without the wine and thoroughbred industries. In addition, food processing employed more than 650 in the region.

    The Hunter is an international centre for wine production and thoroughbred breeding. The Upper Hunter has major agricultural strengths in dairy, livestock and wine, and emerging strengths in oilseeds, legumes and nuts, and food processing. There are also opportunities to develop agri-tourism through a food and wine experience and the equine sector.

    Speaking as part of a panel discussion at the breakfast, Brett Keeping, General Manager of Two Rivers Wines and Vice-President of the Upper Hunter Winemakers Association, said there were positive signs that the wine industry was recovering from a prolonged downturn.

    “We need exports for the wine industry to thrive and there are more positive signs in the past year than in the previous decade that the broader industry is recovering,” he said. “At Two Rivers we have focused on direct marketing and sales through our cellar door and we have seen recent growth and great opportunities for continued improvement in wine tourism in the region.”

    Also speaking on the panel, Muswellbrook Mayor Cr Martin Rush said that agribusiness is important to creating greater diversity in the Upper Hunter economy.

    “We have enormous competitive advantages here. It’s time we moved beyond talking to take action on the issues that need to be addressed to provide businesses with certainty and encourage investment,” he said. “Our planning needs to provide land use certainty and water security, protect biosecurity and address labour supply issues.”

    Michael Connell agreed that land use uncertainty was a major constraint for agribusiness development in the region. He welcomed the release at the end of April of a NSW Government Action Plan to drive land use certainty and address other issues including water security and industry development.

    HRF Centre, in collaboration with other University of Newcastle researchers, is working with Upper Hunter stakeholders to help build a stronger and more diverse economy in the region.

    Dr Anthea Bill, Lead Economist, HRF Centre

    *Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter Shire Local Government Areas

    This opinion piece ran in the Newcastle Herald on 10 May 2017

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    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL Download pdf (153.93 KB)
  • Chance to pitch ideas to expert panel

    Tuesday, 9 May, 2017


    The HRF Centre will again offer two entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to the Hunter economic breakfast audience on 26 May.

    The fledgling businesses have three minutes in which to pitch their concept to a panel of experts at the breakfast, which is an event in the 2017 Hunter Innovation Festival. The panel members will provide them with feedback and advice based on their expertise.

    The HRF initiated the pitch session at the June 2016 economic breakfast, which exposed two fledgling businesses to an audience of 350 business leaders. As well as entertaining the breakfast audience, the session proved useful to the participants’ businesses.

    Tim Davidson from Virtual Perspective (VP) gave a demonstration of the capabilities of virtual reality technology, with a terrifying on-screen simulation of a virus attacking a human cell. He said the exposure from the economic breakfast helped to increase VP’s brand recognition and brought a host of enquiries their way.

    VP has expanded from Tim and his partner working out of a garage to employ two more people, including Business Development Manager Kate Slatter.

    “We have moved to new premises in Warabrook, expanded the team and are actively seeking further talent to be ready for an increase in work,” she said. “We are working on two virtual/ augmented reality projects for Newcastle City Council.”

    Tim said the Hunter is a perfect place to become a hub for tech innovation and education.

    “This year VP are sponsors for the Hunter Innovation Festival’s Hackathon, offering a prize for an augmented reality or virtual reality application idea which will benefit or focus on the Hunter region,” he said.

    The second business to pitch at the 2016 breakfast last year was Newie Ventures, who developed Foresight Parking, to provide innovative smart parking solutions. It uses wireless technology to help people find available parking spaces and allows facility owners to utilise their infrastructure more effectively.

    Heath Raftery from Newie Ventures said the breakfast experience was ‘very valuable’ and raised their profile.

    “We've used the event in our marketing material, which makes a big difference in communicating our legitimacy,” he said. “The preparation and delivery of the pitch has formed the basis of further pitches we've made.”

    Hear two new Hunter start-ups pitch their ideas at the May 26 breakfast, which will also highlight the importance for established businesses to embrace innovation.

    Dr Sarah Pearson will outline how her new role as the University of Newcastle’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Industry Engagement and Innovation will contribute to building an innovation ecosystem in the Hunter.

    Register or download more information at

    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL Download pdf (124.11 KB)
  • Upper Hunter economy buoyed by confidence

    Tuesday, 2 May, 2017

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    Download presentations and publication (Upper Hunter Economic Indicators)
    The HRF Centre will report on renewed business and consumer confidence in the Hunter economy at the Upper Hunter economic breakfast tomorrow and in the first edition for 2017 of the Upper Hunter Region Economic Indicators.

    HRF Centre Lead Economist, Dr Anthea Bill, said the latest results told an improved economic story and showed a turn-around in Upper Hunter household and business confidence.

    “Upper Hunter residents’ expectations for the regional economy for the next three months recorded their best reading since 2005 in the latest HRF Centre survey,” she said. “The proportion of local business owners reporting that the local economy would improve in the short and long term also jumped in December, as did business confidence.”

    The renewed optimism was supported by a strengthening labour market in the Upper Hunter, strong agriculture performance and the recent upturn in commodity prices.

    The Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle, Professor Tony Travaglione, will celebrate the establishment of the HRF Centre at the breakfast, which also features a focus on current and future agribusiness opportunities in the Upper Hunter. The HRF Centre is a partnership between the Hunter Research Foundation and the University.

    Dollarphotoclub 60136232
    Read more Dr Anthea Bill Download pdf (1.71 MB)
  • Activating the Hunter's innovation ecosystem

    Tuesday, 4 April, 2017


    Innovation is critical to national and regional economic growth. The Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre will this year continue research into local business innovation begun by the HRF in 2009.

    Last year’s HRF business surveys and in-depth interviews with start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators showed that innovation in local businesses is a priority. More than half the businesses interviewed were likely to be working on improved goods or services within 12 months.

    The local innovation space presented challenges for almost all of the businesses that had innovated in the previous 12 months and for start-ups. The main barriers they identified related to finance, costs and cash flow, and access to business, marketing and IT skills within the region.

    The local innovation scene has changed in the past year, with funding announcements that are likely to facilitate innovation in the region. In July last year, $1 million in state government funding was granted to the University of Newcastle to develop an Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) across the Hunter.

    Three 76 Hub in the Newcastle CBD and Dantia’s DaSH Hub at Charlestown are both up and running, providing inventors and entrepreneurs with the innovation infrastructure they need to develop their ideas. A Defence Innovation Hub at Williamtown and the Upper Hunter Innovation Precinct at Muswellbrook are also part of the I2N network.

    In September the NSW Government announced $9.8 million in funding for the Hunter Innovation Project, a plan to turn Newcastle into a city known for cutting-edge research and innovation. The project, in partnership with the University, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle NOW and Hunter DiGiT, includes a new innovation hub building to support technology-based industry, a designated digital precinct with high-speed, fibre-based broadband to businesses and sector-leading smart city infrastructure.

    In addition to infrastructure, the Hunter needs leadership and expertise to realise its potential as an innovative region. The recent appointment of the University of Newcastle’s inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor in Industry Engagement and Innovation, Dr Sarah Pearson, will make a significant contribution. She will provide strategic leadership in building industry links and partnerships, forging joint industry-university initiatives, accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship through innovation hubs, and achieving excellence in the translation and commercialisation of research.

    Prior to joining the University, Dr Pearson was CEO of the CBR Innovation Network, where she designed and oversaw a broad suite of offerings to the Canberra innovation community, including an accelerator program, support for small business, a network for entrepreneurs, and activities encouraging students to study science and mathematics.

    Dr Pearson will be the keynote speaker at the HRF Centre’s next Hunter Economic Breakfast in Newcastle on 26 May. The latest Hunter business innovation results will be released at the breakfast, which is a Hunter Innovation Festival event and will feature an innovation pitch session.

    Join other Hunter business leaders at the breakfast to discover the latest data on how Hunter businesses are innovating and how your business can connect to Newcastle’s expanding innovation ecosystem.

    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL Download pdf (86.52 KB)
  • HRF Centre officially opened

    Tuesday, 4 April, 2017


    The new Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre was officially launched by Scot MacDonald, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Central Coast, at the Hunter Economic Breakfast in March.

    Mr MacDonald told the audience of nearly 300 business people at the breakfast that HRF’s long-running Economic Indicators publications have informed the planning and decision-making of thousands of local businesses. Its numerous studies, including the 2016 Future of Hunter Jobs project, provide unique research that is unavailable through other sources and that has contributed strongly to local capacity-building, he said.

    “The Hunter is Australia’s largest regional economy and its growth and wellbeing are important to the development of the State,” Mr MacDonald said. “Reliable research and data is essential to planning – for governments and for industry and business. The HRF Centre is playing a key role in providing the evidence base that we need to underpin the growth of the region.”

    The new HRF Centre builds on the HRF’s community connections and partnerships and leverages the research expertise of Newcastle’s research-intensive University to contribute to the global debate on how to ensure success for communities like the Hunter undergoing profound change.

    The HRF Centre is a multi-disciplinary research Centre, partnering with the community and industry through research and analysis across key sectors: health, education, engineering and infrastructure, environmental management, and energy and resources.

    “It is my pleasure to officially launch this collaborative Hunter Research Foundation Centre that symbolises the Hunter’s progress towards becoming one of the world’s vibrant cities – a key player in the global knowledge-driven economy,” Mr MacDonald concluded.

    Read more
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