Hunter Valley Research Foundation has changed its name to Hunter Research Foundation (HRF), reflecting a time of evolution for the organisation which commenced in 1956. We will continue to partner with our community to deliver insights that move the Hunter forward, towards an internationally competitive and resilient region.

History since 1956

Historical footage to mark the HRF's 55th anniversary in 2011- VIEW (Youtube - 6:15min)
Includes an excerpt from Dark Rain - a film about the Hunter Region produced by the HRF in 1957.

Research information has evolved over 55 years- newsletter article Dec 2011- Read more

The Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) grew out of the devastation of the disastrous 1955 floods which left a trail of destruction and despair throughout the Hunter Valley. After recovery had commenced, a community meeting of over 600 residents took place in Maitland to discuss future action. There was a widespread demand that an effort be made to mitigate the flooding and safeguard the Valley's economy. A decision was taken to set up an organisation to acquire knowledge of the total environment through research and subsequently the HRF was established.

Structure of the HRF

The Foundation was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee on 13 September 1956, with Professor Cyril Renwick, then Professor of Economics at the Newcastle University College, as Director of Research. While there are members of the Company, there are no shareholders nor are dividends remitted to any members. Directors serve in a voluntary capacity and receive no financial gain.

HRF has been built on partnerships of trust with many hundreds of organisations and individuals including clients and Sponsors. This confidence in the Foundation's ideals has enabled it to maintain its core value - independence.

Site establishement

The first major fundraising appeal took place in 1959 and successfully raised £100,000. At the same time the NSW Government declared itself to be a Major Sponsor with a grant of £5,000 and its significant support still continues.

In 1958, the Foundation purchased for £1,000 the first Newcastle Conservatorium of Music building, located in Civic Park. It was moved to the Foundation's current site in Maryville adjacent to Throsby Creek, opposite the (then) Newcastle Technical College/Newcastle University College in Tighes Hill.

The one hectare site in Maryville was a degraded area devoid of vegetation. After the addition of hundreds of tonnes of fill supplied by BHP and the establishment of many trees and shrubs, the site was transformed into an inspirational and pleasant environment, highly conducive to research activities.

In 1970, a second building, the Macquarie Building, was opened and remains the Foundation's current headquarters. The original building (Hunter Building) is still used as a data collection facility.

In 2007, the Foundation completed a Stage 1 extension to the Macquarie Building. The two-storey open plan building overlooking Throsby Creek houses the HRF's research and support staff.

The final project to completely upgrade the HRF premises and to co-locate all staff in the same building was completed in early 2013. The refurbishment of the Macquarie Building was made possible with a Federal Government grant of $698,000, through the Regional Development Australia Fund, which was added to $239,000 already raised within the Hunter community through the HRF’s Building Fund.

Research Activities

Initial research undertaken by the Foundation concerned water resources: their availability and distribution. The early studies of the Hunter River system, land use (a joint project with CSIRO), and work on aspects of industry, allowed people to see the Hunter as a cohesive geographic and economic unit, rich in resources. The extensive collection of information and the development of databases in the Hunter make it one of the best researched and documented regions in Australia. Weather station recordings began in 1964 and still provide climatic and weather information as a basic community service.

Streamflow experiments provided information needed for irrigation and flood control work, and sedimentation and harbour siltation research eventually influenced the decision to deepen Newcastle Harbour to allow the entry of large coal carriers. These silt-tracing studies enabled an understanding of sediment movement in Newcastle Harbour and were a basic component in the development of Newcastle as the largest exporting port in Australia.

In the mid 1970s, Professor Renwick saw that the emphasis of world research was moving towards the social sciences, and the more intensive study of man in his environment. Major studies were initiated on urban land use; leisure, recreation and tourism; pollution; and the impact of mining on agricultural land.

Under the guidance of its second CEO, Dr W.E.J. Paradice, who succeeded Professor Renwick on his retirement in 1985, the Foundation developed an extensive range of regional monitoring programs and built a well-respected contracted research arm to the business.

With only it's third CEO, Dr Brent Jenkins, coming on board in late 2013 the has focused it's research efforts on three distinct themes: