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Tony Sansom OAM

Tony Sansom OAM

NSW Deputy Director for Hunter and Central Coast

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Hunter at a glance

Largest economy in Regional NSW

Largest economy in Regional NSW

Largest economy in Regional NSW and transformation of Newcastle into a global ‘smart city’
Connected to major shipping ports

Connected to major shipping ports

Connected to major shipping ports across Asia-Pacific through the Port of Newcastle
Recognised wine, food and tourism

Recognised wine, food and tourism

Recognised wine, food and tourism supported by investment in Newcastle Cruise Terminal and Newcastle Airport
Strong local industries

Strong local industries

Strong local defence, education and advanced manufacturing industries

The Hunter is the largest economy in Regional NSW contributing over A$32.3 billion to the NSW economy with mining, manufacturing, health and social services comprising a third. The Hunter has a population of over 726,500.


The Hunter has a diverse economy with strengths across advanced manufacturing, aerospace, defence, tourism and mining. With its increasing focus on the knowledge economy, a dynamic start-up sector has developed. NSW government investment in infrastructure and the rollout of Australia’s most sophisticated ‘Internet of Things’ platform across Newcastle CBD facilitates future expansion.

The Hunter combines an innovative economic and business environment with a high standard of living and proximity to Sydney. The University of Newcastle (a Global top 250 university) provides access to a diverse talent pool and industrial research connections.

Tourism and the local wine and food industry are important contributors to the regional economy.  Tourism injected over A$2.5 billion into the region in 2016-17, with a steady 2.0% annual increase in visitor numbers since 2009-10 (refer Destination NSW). The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine growing region and remains one of its premier wine regions. The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine growing region and remains one of its premier wine regions.

Header image credit: Phillip Quirk Photography

Key local attributes

Key local attributes

The Hunter has excellent connectivity to major markets via the Pacific Highway, the Sydney-Newcastle railway, Port of Newcastle and Newcastle Airport. 64% of the region’s households are connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The Port of Newcastle is Australia’s third largest port, the world’s leading coal export port and the 24th largest in the world by trade volume, with commercial shipping lines to major ports throughout Asia and the Pacific.  The University of Newcastle and local TAFEs offer international quality education.  

Research centres include the CSIRO Energy Centre, the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER). Major hospitals are located in Newcastle and surrounding areas.

Commercial real estate in Newcastle is on average A$220 per square metre for office rent per annum compared to A$675 in Melbourne's CBD, while industrial rent is on average A$130 per square metre in Newcastle (LJ Hooker Commercial, 2017).

Audrey Wilkinson Outlook, Pokolbin - image courtesy of NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet

Key local attributes

Sectors of opportunity

  • Education

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    Workforce
    • 26,000 employed in education and training.

    • Second highest number of employees with postgraduate degrees in Regional NSW.

    • The largest centre of education employment in Regional NSW.

    Infrastructure
    • University of Newcastle’s five campuses offer 198 undergraduate and postgraduate programs, 173 research masters and PhD programmes.

    • Growing cluster of innovation, technology, business, and research and development (R&D) centres partnering with industry and government.

    Success
    • International students from over 120 countries studying at the University of Newcastle.

    • Newcastle Smart City Initiative maximises opportunities across technology, advanced manufacturing, the digital economy and creative industries.

    • Growth in R&D and innovation hubs including the: 

      Energy and Resources Knowledge Hub
      CSIRO Energy Centre
      Port Stephens Fisheries Institute
      Eighteen04 (CleanTech incubator)
      Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources
      Three76 Hub (Newcastle Innovation Hub)
      Williamtown Defence Hub
      Upper Hunter Innovation Hub
      Dantia Smart Hub (DaSH) and
      Hunter Medical Research Institute.

    For more information on Education, please refer to the sector detail page.

    Investment Success: Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources

    Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources

    The Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) is a highly successful precinct at the University of Newcastle, acting as a focal point for industry, academia and government collaboration. The multidisciplinary centre has a focus on energy and resources, boasting a test bed and pilot plant which has played host to industry collaborations across critical resource sustainability, transformation of the energy system, and national productivity.

    TUNRA Bulk Solids, a consultancy co-located in the precinct with university staff, has successfully completed over 3500 projects for 1000 companies in 40 countries. Its turnover is on a significant upwards trajectory, having risen from A$1 million in 2005 to A$4 million in 2012.

    The Institute’s large base of international clientele is set to grow with current research priorities including:

    • managing methane emissions from underground coal mines
    • water and energy efficiency in mineral processing
    • carbon capture and storage, and
    • polymer solar cells.
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  • Defence and aerospace

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    Workforce
    • Second largest concentration of defence employment in NSW at 19%.

    • Large available skilled workforce for aerospace, ship building, and naval and commercial vessel sustainment

    • Defence and Security Research and Innovation Hub at the University of Newcastle encourage engagement between the University and the defence industry.

    Infrastructure
    • Ideal coastal position for servicing defence maritime, land and aerospace projects.

    • Australian Army Singleton Military Area base for infantry and Special Forces training.

    • RAAF Base Williamtown, Australia’s main fighter and airborne early warning and control base employing 3,500 people.

    Success
    • Decision to upgrade ship repair facilities at Port of Newcastle, a joint venture by Thales and the NSW Government.

    • Established commercial relationships between local companies and global defence industry supply chains, Boeing, BAE Systems, Thales, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

    • Site of two major Australian Defence Force bases including NSW’s largest air force base, RAAF Base Williamtown.

    For more information on Defence and Aerospace, please refer to the sector detail page.

    Investment Success: BAE Systems Australia

    BAE Systems Australia

    BAE Systems has a major base at Williamtown in the Hunter servicing the large RAAF base.

    Williamtown is the centre of BAE System's Australia air combat sustainment activities, including deeper maintenance and line maintenance for the RAAF fleets of 33 Hawk 127 lead-in fighters. The presence of BAE Systems acts as a catalyst for other business development in the region.

    BAE Systems Australia has been assigned Airframe Maintenance, Component Maintenance and Warehousing Depot roles supporting the F-35 Fleet in the Pacific, which could be up to 130 aircraft. This includes F-35 from foreign air force assets operating in the region, such as those from South Korea, Japan, Singapore and the US. Further opportunities exist for regional component mantenance (repair and testing) and warehousing for the regional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet.

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  • Advanced manufacturing

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    Workforce
    • More than 1,500 businesses employing over 30,000 people.

    • Diverse manufacturing expertise in mining, defence, transport, chemical processing, construction, energy generation and distribution industries.

    • One in four adults have a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) education.

    Infrastructure
    • Close proximity to natural resources and export markets via the Port of Newcastle.

    • Supportive research and innovation infrastructure located at the University of Newcastle.

    • Easy access to Sydney via coastal rail and road infrastructure.

    Success
    • Second to Sydney for advanced manufacturing output per worker at A$113,501.

    • Home to Eighteen04, a co-working space for cleantech and smart city infrastructure startups.

    • Home to HunterNet, a nationally recognised manufacturing network of over 200 manufacturing, engineering and specialist services companies.

    For more information on Advanced Manufacturing, please refer to the sector detail page.

    Investment Success: Cowan Manufacturing

    Cowan Manufacturing

    Based in the Hunter since 1973, Cowan Manufacturing has delivered specialist skills in aluminium and stainless steel fabrication, using a variety of specialist equipment and training rooms.

    Cowan is accredited under international and domestic industry standards, making it a supplier of choice for both the Australian and United States militaries.

    Since 1994, Cowan’s international expertise has been recognised with awards for design, export success, business excellence, quality and business achievement.

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  • Tourism

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    Workforce
    • Over 2,200 businesses employing 25,000 people in the region.

    • 8% of the Hunter’s total employment.

    • The sector contributes over A$42,000 to the NSW economy per employee.

    Infrastructure
    • Hunter Valley’s established wine and food tourism infrastructure.

    • Range of attractions including coastal areas, beaches and bushland areas.

    • A$12.7 million investment in permanent cruise ship terminal at Port of Newcastle which will significantly grow the already robust cruise ship tourism.

    Success
    • Growth in cruise ship visits and day and overnight visits.

    • 3.7% increase in international visitors since 2009-10 with over 10 million international and domestic visitors in 2016-17.

    • Over A$2.5 billion spent in 2016-17.

    • Internationally-recognised wine, food and tourism industry supported by investment in cruise terminal.

    For more information on Tourism, please refer to the sector detail page.

    Investment Success: Port of Newcastle Cruise Ship Terminal Development

    Port of Newcastle Cruise Ship Terminal Development

    The Port of Newcastle is the largest port on the east coast of Australia and the world's leading coal export port, handling more than 25 different cargoes and over 2,200 ship visits a year.

    There is significant potential to further develop the Port, which is currently offering 200 hectares of vacant port side land for development with significant deep water access and connectivity to national road and rail networks.

    The Port has become a popular destination for international cruise ships, drawn to the region’s natural beauty, the premier Hunter wine valley and an established tourism sector. In 2016, the NSW Government announced a A$12.7 million investment in a permanent multi-purpose cruise terminal facility at the Port of Newcastle. This will strengthen Newcastle as an international cruise destination and secure the long-term future of cruise shipping in the Hunter.

    Cruise shipping currently injects A$11 million a year into the local economy. The permanent terminal has the potential to deliver additional economic value to the region via more cruise ship visits, increased interstate and international visitors, and an opportunity for local businesses to supply goods and services for the provisioning of ships. It will also complement the growing capacity of Newcastle Airport.

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Get in touch

Tony Sansom OAM

NSW Deputy Director for Hunter and Central Coast
Office contacts
T: +61 1300 679 673
E: info@investregional.nsw.gov.au
Level 5, 26 Honeysuckle Dr
NEWCASTLE NSW 2300