Tuesday, 5 June, 2018
At the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre, we have been analysing the 2016 Australian Census and other data to better understand the dynamics of the Hunter.
The region is changing. When comparing the 2011 to 2016 Census period with the 2006 to 2011 period, our rate of economic growth slowed. Relative levels of disadvantage grew in many of our postcodes and suburbs. Population growth rates have also differed widely across the region.
One regional stand-out was Maitland local government area (LGA). It had a startling population growth trajectory between 2011 and 2016. Its population increased at a much higher rate (15%) than that of the State (8%) and even Greater Sydney (10%).
The age distribution suggests young families and retirees dominated the 2011 to 2016 population growth. What attracted them?
Housing affordability was important. Maitland’s annual house price growth rate (7%), as at June 2017, was much lower than Newcastle’s (15%). The median house price ($420,000) was also lower than Newcastle ($545,000), Lake Macquarie ($520,000) and Port Stephens ($488,000). Much of the growth is in new greenfield development sites.
Lifestyle was another factor. Development of Greenhills and the Maitland CBD offered new dining and shopping options.
Maitland’s geographical position has contributed. The opening of the Hunter Expressway in 2014 helped to reduce travel times and increase connectivity between the Upper Hunter, Newcastle and Sydney. The LGA enjoys high levels of economic diversity. Businesses are well placed to take advantage of proximity to a range of Hunter industries, as well as Newcastle and Sydney markets.
However, in common with other Hunter LGAs, Maitland still has pockets of disadvantage. This is particularly apparent in some suburbs in west and East Maitland. Business and government should seek opportunities to increase housing and employment opportunities in these areas.