News and published articles in 2019 to 2016

  • Creative industries key to unlocking innovation

    Friday, 15 March, 2019


    Economic and cultural benefits of investing in creative industries were discussed at the Hunter Economic breakfast on 1 March.

    Our guest speaker, the Hon. David Bartlett, talked about ‘the MONA effect’. The opening of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart in 2011 boosted tourism numbers and spawned a range of other enterprises. Bartlett, Premier of Tasmania from 2008 until 2011, explained how MONA breathed new life into the State’s economy.

    Tasmania received 1.3 million visitors in the 12 months ending September 2018. Around 347,000 (27%) reported visiting MONA during their trip, up from 28,000 in 2010-11.

    Bartlett says that the MONA effect has meant more to Tasmania than just a boost in tourist numbers. The real MONA effect is to give people confidence about what they can do when they try something different.

    The City of Newcastle and Hunter region more generally were recognised as ‘hot spots’ for creative industries in the Smart Specialisation Strategy for the Hunter Region, released in 2016 by Regional Development Australia Hunter. This strategy noted that creative businesses are typically not large, but, in aggregate, the sector can be a substantial employer. It contributes value to other businesses through product design as well as creative content for marketing, product positioning and branding.

    Creative industries are already a key segment within the Hunter according to a recent report from a University of Newcastle project funded by the Australian Research Council. In 2016, creative industries contributed almost $1 billion to the Hunter’s Gross Regional Product.

    Newcastle residents attend more arts events per ticket buyer than the national average, according to TEG Analytics, and they spend less per event. Newcastle also has a substantially greater share of people who attend arts events within the LGA – 41 per cent. The arts and creative industries that benefit from such attendance have the potential to play a central role in ‘place-making’ - improvements in city vibrancy, identity and tourism.

    Tasmania’s experience with MONA is not an isolated instance, according to Andrew Hoyne, place-making and branding expert, who spoke at the breakfast. The concept of creative prosperity is being recognised by cities around the world, Hoyne said.

    Return on investment in creative industries is low, but building the creative sector is actually an investment in entrepreneurship, innovation and new ideas, Hoyne explained.People who use creative ideas to drive new economic activity have a hugely positive effect on the greater community. When creative economies are given the opportunity to flourish, you get better restaurants and bars, better night life and music scenes, and you end up with a more engaged community.

    Hoyne has seen huge investment in creative hubs, rejuvenated city areas and progressive business precincts in cities in the US. Cashed up IT companies are seeing the value, where recruitment and retention are critical issues. They want to be where smart young people are, who in turn want to be where the fun is.They prefer to be surrounded by like-minded people, entertainment and a variety of activities. On this front, creative prosperity is a core pillar.

    These ideas were digested in a workshop, immediately following the breakfast, via facilitated discussion on identity and positioning for Greater Newcastle. The workshop brought together leaders from diverse sectors, including the creative industries. Participants identified the assets of the region and how those assets could be presented to appeal to investors, prospective residents or visitors. This collaborative effort progressed development of a compelling, strategic narrative for Greater Newcastle.

    The HRF Centre will continue to facilitate such engagement with a broad range of stakeholders on questions that are critical to the region’s development. We seek to provide an evidence base of research and exemplars of global best practices to inform the decisions in government, business and the community.

    Contact the Centre to find out more about our 2019 program of engagement and research, or to express interest in participating in future events.

    This opinion piece appeared in the Newcastle Herald on 20 March 2019

    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL
  • Q&A with Andrew Hoyne and David Bartlett

    Wednesday, 13 March, 2019


    Andrew Hoyne is the Founding Principal of Hoyne - a strategic place consultant and brand agency. They focus on positioning ‘places’ for commercial and social success. Travelling extensively, Andrew has seen the power of how effective place-making can transform communities here and abroad. He is passionate in his belief that we can do more to create meaningful places. He has published a volume - The Place Economy – that looks at best-practice place-making around the globe and its social and economic impacts.

    Now is the time to explore implications for Greater Newcastle. We asked Andrew what we can learn from what has occurred elsewhere.

    What is one thing that Greater Newcastle may overlook in relation to undergoing a major transformation in identity and positioning? What do people often fail to consider?

    It is interesting that we’ve just been hearing all about MONA and Tasmania. One of the most compelling things that cities around the world are starting to do is to understand the concept of creative prosperity. It seems really obvious and simple but the reason why people have not invested in the creative sectors in the past is because on the surface it seems there’s not a sizeable enough financial return on investment. In traditional terms, people with the cheque book assume investing in creative prosperity doesn’t stack up. But the reality is that when you invest in the creative sector anywhere in the world, you actually invest in entrepreneurship, innovation and new ideas – which are the cornerstone of creating new economic opportunities.

    These people who use creative ideas as a driver of new economic activity, have a hugely positive effect on the greater community. When creative economies are given the opportunity to flourish, you get better restaurants and bars, better night life and music scenes, and you get a more engaged community. It is interesting because although we are surrounded by American television, and it is made to look normal when it is clearly not, America is not the progressive country that we are led to believe. It is, in many ways, incredibly backward for a country with its level of resources, funding and market size. When you take these things into account, you will discover that Australia is much more progressive than many other parts of the world.

    What I see in many interesting cities around the USA is huge investment in creative hubs, rejuvenated city areas and progressive business precincts. Companies from the IT industry who have money, are seeing the value. What makes a city great is education which is integrated into the cities fabric. As the number one issue for intelligent businesses is recruitment and retention. Businesses want to be where smart young people are. And where do smart young people want to be? They want to be where the fun is, where they are surrounded by like-minded people, entertainment and activity. This can only be achieved by having creative prosperity as a core pillar.

    Download the transcript to see what they had to say.

  • The MONA Effect : Can it be replicated in regions?

    Wednesday, 13 March, 2019


    The Hon. David Bartlett, Premier of Tasmania from 2008 – 2011, spoke at the Hunter economic breakfast on 1 March.

    He discussed the effect created on the Tasmanian economy by the ‘random lightning bolt of weirdness’ that is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart. MONA’s opening in 2011 boosted tourism numbers and spawned a range of other enterprises. It breathed new life into the State’s economy.

    Bartlett drew nine insights from the success of MONA that can inform upon economies in cities and regions, like Newcastle and the Hunter:

    1. Find your tipping point
      Bartlett talked about The Tipping Point, the magic moment referred to by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2000 book. The tipping point occurs when an idea or trend in social behaviour crosses a threshold. Bartlett says that is what Tasmania has done over the last 20 years. He says there were great ventures happening in Tasmania before MONA came along. He described MONA as the ‘salesman’ that turned the eyes of the world to Tasmania. Other individuals and institutions were then able to recognise the possibilities and seize the moment to capitalise on that potential market.
    2. Back key individuals and projects that can create change
      Identify individuals who can make things happen. For example Brian Ritchie, bass player from punk band Violent Femmes, who moved to Hobart. Bartlett granted him funding to create the MoFo music festival. Ritchie had a ‘little black book with the details of every musical artist in the world’. Bartlett was far-sighted in supporting what was considered by his advisers as a risky project.
    3. Don’t underestimate your audience
      Bartlett related the way that the Hobart community had embraced some of the controversial elements of MONA and MoFo. They saw the opportunities offered as queues formed for arts events. He said that regional leaders, particularly in Government, can be terrified that people might not like something controversial or different. It takes courage to give people permission to do remarkable things and to take risks to do them.
    4. Identify and articulate your ‘Lexus’ and your ‘olive tree’
      Bartlett related to insights gained from Thomas L. Friedman’s book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He argues that, for regions to survive and prosper in a globalised world, they must find both their Lexus and their olive tree. The Lexus represents all that is new in a region – innovation-based, technology-based, export-focused and facing the world. In Tasmania, this could be Incat, an advanced manufacturer that has constructed 75 per cent of the world’s ferries. The olive tree is the thing that roots regions in their history, what they believe in and what unifies them as a community. This could be Tasmania’s apple tree. Each region needs to identify these and to get both right.
    5. End (or don’t start) the religious wars
      Bartlett discussed how environmental protesters hijacked the high-profile Sydney launch of Incat’s Spirit of Tasmania III. They dropped a sign over the edge to say Woodchipping the…Spirit of Tasmania. It highlighted environmental issues that had plagued Tasmania for 40 years. A subsequent truce between the forestry industry and environmentalists worked because the forestry industry was no longer economically viable. Bartlett says it had been propped up by successive governments for 30 years, as a religious war. Regions need to identify these ongoing conflicts and ‘get out of the trenches’.
    6. Authenticity is everything.
      Keep it real. People want authentic experiences. The highest consumer-rated tourism experience in the whole of Tasmania is Ian Hall’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tour of Henty Dunes, on the west coast of Tasmania. When you do the tour, he tells you the stories of the region where he is from. He is ‘just a bloke’ with four ATVs on some sand dunes. The authenticity is what people want to buy.
    7. Identify and deal with unintended consequences.
      In his address, and the Q&A session following, Bartlett listed a range of consequences that the MONA phenomenon has created in the lives of Tasmanians. One has been a backlash, particularly in Hobart, against the effects of tourism on the city. For example, the Airbnb phenomenon has negatively impacted rental affordability in Hobart.
    8. Constant evolution is necessary.
      Don’t get complacent. Evolution and what is next is really important. There needs to be a constant striving to understand what is next for a regional economy.
    9. Speak with one voice.
      Regions succeed when they speak to Government with one voice. Bartlett gave the example of the Tahune Airwalk, destroyed in Tasmania’s summer bushfires. Within three weeks of the fire, the Huon Valley community unified, together with MONA, the State Government and the Tasmanian Government Tourism Council. They spoke to Federal Government with one voice and were granted $2 million for a collaborative project that would have immediate impact. MONA will build a temporary art and light installation in the forest, to retain tourism and help rescue the regional economy.

    Bartlett said that the real MONA effect is to give Tasmanians confidence.

    “We have had an extraordinary cultural change in Tasmania,” he explained. “There is a cultural confidence and a contagious view of our own assets.

    “Suddenly everything we do is really good because everyone else is telling us it’s really good. That has created an extraordinary culture of experimentation that wasn’t there 10 years ago.”

  • Regional economy robust at least for the short-term

    Friday, 1 March, 2019


    Hunter business performance rebounded in December 2018 from the June quarter, according to data released at the Hunter Economic breakfast on 1 March.

    The data came from the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre’s December 2018 Pulse survey. It also showed a slight improvement in consumer spending, bringing household consumption above the five-year average for December.

    Dr Anthea Bill, HRF Centre’s lead economist, says business confidence rebounded slightly from the sharp drop recorded in June. Levels are now back to where they were 18 months ago.

    “Household and business confidence in the regional economy over the long-term has weakened however,” Dr Bill cautioned. “In the short-term at least business performance appears to be trending above the national picture, where the sector lost some momentum over late 2018.”

    Household spending in the Hunter also looks to be a bit better than the national picture. However, spending is well below pre-GFC averages. The fragile nature of the household sector is a key concern nationally, where low wage growth, high household debt and cooling house prices are likely to be impacting.

    “The Hunter’s economy has a number of protective factors,” Dr Bill stated. “Factors include renewed activity in the region’s mining sector, a relatively strong labour market and, to date, a relatively robust housing market and construction pipeline.”

    Dr Bill delivered her insights into the regional economy to an audience of 290 business, government and academic leaders at the Hunter Economic breakfast. They included analysis of the contribution of the arts and creative industries in regional economies, including Newcastle and the Hunter.


    Read more Dr Anthea Bill
  • Understanding the effects of mining in regional economies

    Thursday, 29 November, 2018


    The HRF Centre partnered with Singleton Shire Council to host a Parliamentary hearing in Singleton in November.

    The Centre helped to organise the testimony of 18 Hunter people from 14 organisations to the inquiry into how the mining sector can support businesses in regional economies.

    Professor Will Rifkin, Director of the HRF Centre, and Dr Anthea Bill, lead economist, addressed members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources about the effects of boom-and-bust cycles on the Hunter and other regional communities.

    Dr Bill described the marked difference in economic trends in the Hunter when compared to New South Wales, as a whole. She said that a decline in global coal prices to around US$56 a tonne saw a 15 per cent decline in employment in the Hunter region between September 2013 and March 2015. This decline compared to a 1.1 per cent increase in employment across the state.

    This bust phase was followed by a recovery phase. From March 2015 to July 2018, there was 20 per cent growth in employment in the Hunter balance versus 10 per cent in the state overall.

    Professor Rifkin and Dr Katherine Witt, from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Centre for Coal Seam Gas, presented findings from research on Queensland’s Darling Downs during its natural gas boom. The research developed the UQ Boomtown Indicators.Their approach has gained international recognition as a benchmark for assessing rural and regional change.

    The HRF Centre, in collaboration with other regional universities, is proposing to employ the UQ Boomtown Indicators approach nationally, at the behest of Parliamentarians addressed at a hearing in Newcastle last year. The idea is to do fine-grained profiling of a set of economic and social indicators for 50 bellwether communities across Australia.

    “Australia’s regions are facing significant challenges from the roller coaster ride of economic cycles in the mining sector, shifts in agricultural prices and changes in exchange value of the Australian dollar,” Professor Rifkin said. “This approach can raise the capabilities of businesses, local government and community providers around the country.It would build on successes of the pilot in Queensland.”

    Other organisations represented at the Singleton hearing on 5 November included: Singleton and Cessnock Councils; the Hunter, Muswellbrook and Singleton Business Chambers; The Bloomfield Group, Glencore, Hedweld, the Australian Industry Group, Hunternet and Forsythes Recruitment.

    Read the Hansard transcript.

  • Second cities symposium proposes way forward

    Thursday, 29 November, 2018


    The HRF Centre led a collaborative effort to stage the Second Cities: Smaller and Smarter Symposium in October.

    The Centre, Hunter Water, the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation and AECOM were Lead Partners in the Symposium. The event cultivated understanding among delegates of the economic and social drivers for cities such as Greater Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong. It also showcased Newcastle as an emerging global city.

    Forty-five expert speakers and panellists addressed the three key themes of innovation, infrastructure and liveability over the two-day symposium. A total of 187 participants represented 80 organisations.

    Symposium host, Kyle Loades, stated that the event helped to build insight, dialogue, and trust among leaders in Greater Newcastle’s government, academic and business sectors.

    Loades led a final session to explore: where to next? The participants were from state and local government, the private sector, industry groups, the community sector and the university. They worked in groups to brainstorm their insights and bolster the development of Greater Newcastle.

    Across the groups came a consistent call for greater collaboration and transparent governance within and between tiers of government and with the private and public sectors.

    Each group nominated two priorities that they considered critical to Greater Newcastle. There was significant overlap among the groups, with the following key areas of focus:

    • A compelling vision
      • delivers a sense of ownership for the community
      • requires collaboration
      • longer time frames for looking forward: 20 to 50 year
    • A clear brand and identity
      • for the city and its people
      • many believe the identity exists but is not captured and articulated clearly
      • embracing a progressive agenda
      • attract and develop hero experiences
    • Progress of key infrastructure
      • airport upgrade
      • create health and innovation precinct
      • true coordination around a major project
    • Enhanced liveability (including inclusivity)
      • a decent cultural space: museum or art gallery
      • investment in creative industries to enhance social fabric
    • Economic and cultural diversification
      • job opportunities
      • a stronger role for the university
      • better support for small business
      • resilience
      • build on core strengths: engineering, health, education
    • Measurement and benchmarking (nationally and internationally)
      • seek international funding schemes

    The HRF Centre will explore these areas in its upcoming research and engagement, including a possible Second Cities Symposium 2019. Along these lines, the Centre’s Hunter economic breakfast series will have an over-arching theme of Collaboration and Vision.

    Read more
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