NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Why do we need Metropolitan Planning for Greater Newcastle?

Professor Greg Clark CBE is a global adviser whose expertise covers economies, globalisation and trade, city identity, planning and transport, metropolitan strategic planning, technology and smart cities, real estate and urban investment and national and regional strategies.

He has been involved with the GNMP since its launch in early 2017 where he spoke about global examples of metropolitan planning and how it has assisted small to medium sized cities reach their economic potential.

He also attended workshops in April and spoke about the need for strategic planning for second tier cities like Newcastle to deliver on its promises of becoming a thriving metropolitan city. The video below was recorded at one of these Challenge and Opportunity workshops.

He is the author of 10 books and his Metropolitan Strategic Planning Case Studies Report for Greater Newcastle NSW was released by the Department in July 2017.

Watch Metropolitan planning in Greater Newcastle with Prof. Greg Clark

Download Greg Clark's Metropolitan Strategic Planning Case Studies Report (PDF, 2.6 MB).

Download GNMP case studies report

Australia’s leading regional economy

A report by MacroPlan Dimarsi, the 'Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Strategy - Economic Prospects to 2036', says creativity and innovation in the services and tourism sectors will turbo charge Australia’s leading regional economy, boosting household incomes in the next two decades.

Commissioned by the Department of Planning and Environment to inform the inaugural draft of the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036, its key recommendations build on Greater Newcastle’s successful transformation from a steel city to a new service economy based around the health, education and tourism sectors.

The economics prospects report was released in November 2017 and was considered by the Department when preparing the draft Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036.

Download the report 'Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Strategy - Economic Prospects to 2036' (PDF, 1.95 MB).

Download GNMS Economics report

Download the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036

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Download the GNMP 2036 – full document (PDF, 23.1 MB)

Download GNMP 2036 (Full)

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View the Hunter Regional Plan 2036

View the Hunter Regional Plan

Find out more about delivering the Hunter Regional Plan:

Delivering the plan

Related documents

Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Profiles

The Greater Newcastle profiles are snapshots of the people, environment and economy of the metropolitan area.

The profiles provide insights into current land use, housing, employment and transport, and assist in identifying issues that metropolitan planning considers. They are also used to compare Greater Newcastle with other major Australian cities to further identify challenges that need to be addressed as the area continues to grow and change.

As new information becomes available the profiles will be updated, for example, when the 2016 Census is released. This will also allow monitoring of progress towards goals in the Hunter Regional Plan 2036 as well as the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036.

Greater Newcastle covers the Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Newcastle and Port Stephens local government areas.

Greater Newcastle Profiles

Jobs and Employment

This section provides a brief snapshot of employment across Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Area and identifies characteristics associated with the types of jobs, distribution of jobs, employment and industry growth and how employment is distributed across major employment precincts and strategic centres.

Types of Jobs

What we know1

  • Greater Newcastle has approximately 245,000 jobs with 47% of these jobs in either health care, retail, manufacturing or education.
  • The current strength of Health and Education relates to the role of Greater Newcastle servicing surrounding areas and regions in health and tertiary education.
  • The Industrial sector, often associated with Greater Newcastle, currently plays an important role in terms of overall employment. Manufacturing has the largest number of jobs in this sector and remains a substantial employer in Greater Newcastle.
  • Knowledge Intensive include professional, scientific and technical jobs. The RAAF base at Williamtown makes up a large proportion of the ‘public administration and safety’ category.
  • Employment in the Population Serving sector is largely made up of retail. ‘Construction’ and ‘accommodation and food services’ are also significant employers.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Greater Newcastle is still perceived as a coal or steel town outside the region, despite lower levels of employment in these industries over the last 20 years. This perception needs to be addressed.
  • Health care is the metropolitan area’s largest single sector. Greater Newcastle is also home to research facilities such as Hunter Medical Research Institute and medical school.  Greater Newcastle is well placed to develop as a centre of excellence in health and education.

Industry mix of Greater Newcastle

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greater newcastle industry mix of greater newcastle 834x1043

Distribution Jobs

What we know2

  • 70% of jobs within Greater Newcastle are in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas.
  • There is variation of the types of jobs located in each local government area. Health care and social assistance is the largest employment category in Newcastle, retail trade for Lake Macquarie and Maitland, manufacturing for Port Stephens and accommodation and food services for Cessnock.
  • The types of jobs in each area relate to some of the largest employers– for example John Hunter Hospital and University in Newcastle, Charlestown shopping centre in Lake Macquarie, the vineyards in Cessnock and the Tomago industrial lands at Port Stephens.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • The concentration of jobs in Newcastle and northern Lake Macquarie means people who live outside of these areas must commute further to reach work. Only 64% of the population lives in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, yet 70% of the jobs are found here. Improved accessibility to employment is required.
  • There is specialisation of industries in each local government area. Each area can leverage off this specialisation.

1Data based on tables created by Transport for NSW 2011 Journey to Work

Industry mix of Cessnock 2011 

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greater newcastle industry mix of cessnock 834x1133

Industry mix of Lake Macquarie 2011

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greater newcastle industry mix of lake macquarie 834x1141

Industry mix of Maitland 2011

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greater newcastle industry mix of maitland 834x1141

Industry mix of Newcastle 2011

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greater newcastle industry mix of newcastle 834x1170

Industry mix of Port Stephens 2011 

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greater newcastle industry mix of port stephens 834 x 1163

Employment growth

Employment Growth 

What we know3  

  • There were approximately 254,000 jobs in the Greater Newcastle area in 2011. This is projected to increase to 303,000 by 2036. 
  • The sectors which have grown the fastest across the Hunter Region from 2001 to 2011 are health care (increase of +12,262 or 44% growth), professional services (9,394 jobs or 70% growth) and accommodation and food services (+8,159 jobs or 43% growth). There was also strong growth in manufacturing, education and construction. 

Challenges and Opportunities 

  • The growth in health care, professional services and accommodation and food services since 2011 creates further opportunities to create new jobs in these industry sectors.  
  • The different growth rates of industry sectors will require careful monitoring to plan for land use in the future.  
  • Growth of health and education and the domestic service categories (which are the two largest) are strongly tied with population growth.
  • Increasing the contribution of productive and knowledge intensive categories is required to attract working age people to Newcastle. 

Employment Precincts  

What we know4  

  • The seven largest industrial precincts are Tomago, Beresfield, Thornton, Newcastle Port, Cardiff Industrial Estate, Gateshead and Rutherford. They contain over 30,000 jobs and account for 12% of all jobs in the Greater Newcastle area.  
  • These precincts contain 50% of all manufacturing jobs in Greater Newcastle.   
  • The employment precincts have a degree of manufacturing specialisation, with Tomago specialising in aluminium production, Cardiff and Beresfield in food and machinery manufacturing, and the Port of Newcastle/ Kooragang Island specialising in chemical manufacturing. 

Challenges and Opportunities 

  • Each of these manufacturing areas are large employers which creates efficiencies in transport networks and potential opportunities for agglomeration. 
  • Demand for housing near these precincts is a challenge as it could lead to land use conflict, such as noise and odour complaints. Maintaining adequate buffers is required.  
  • Manufacturing is reliant on access to markets. Only a small number of manufacturers in the Hunter export internationally  
  • Proximity to Sydney offers opportunities to grow manufacturing and other industries. Improving and maintaining transport links to ensure access to markets is required.
3, 4 Data based on tables created by Transport for NSW 2011 Journey to Work http://www.bts.nsw.gov.au/Statistics/jtw/default.aspx#top
5 Australian Industry Group submission to the draft Hunter Regional Plan 
Strategic Centres

What we know6

  • The largest strategic centres in Greater Newcastle (in terms of numbers of people employed) are Newcastle City Centre, Callaghan University Campus, John Hunter Hospital, Charlestown, Kotara and Newcastle Airport. These centres employ over 5,000 people.
  • There is no clear ‘centres hierarchy’ found in Greater Newcastle. Newcastle City Centre is by far the largest centre in terms of employment, but does not include significant retail or health services. All strategic centres are of a similar size creating a polycentric Greater Newcastle.
  • Some strategic centres are highly specialised, including John Hunter (health), Callaghan University Campus (tertiary education), Broadmeadow (entertainment), Kotara (retail), Glendale (retail). There is limited housing in these specialised centres, although the University does provide student accommodation.
  • The strategic centres of Raymond Terrace, Morisset, Cessnock, Maitland, Charlestown and Newcastle City Centre have a much higher range of economic diversity. These tend to also have a mix of housing within or close to the centres.
  • The Hunter Regional Plan referred to the largest centres in the Hunter region as Strategic Centres. There are other large urban centres that the Hunter Regional Plan did not identify – this includes Beresfield, Hamilton, Thornton, Warners Bay, Mayfield, Toronto and Belmont.  These centres employ over 2,000 people and are significant centres in the context of the metropolitan area.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • The polycentric nature of employment and centres in Newcastle creates challenges to providing efficient public transport. However, this creates opportunities for people to live closer to where they work and travel less.
  • Very few people live within or near the University, John Hunter and the Airport specialised strategic centres. These highly specialised centres will need to be carefully planned. Any diversification of uses needs to ensure that their primary use can continue.   
  • There are opportunities to encourage additional housing within centres so that people can be close to jobs and services.
6 Data based on tables created by Transport for NSW 2011 Journey to Work

Strategic Centre job volume 2011

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greater newcastle strategic centre job volume 2011 834x920

Housing Characteristics 

What we know

  • It is estimated that there are 200,000 dwellings across the Greater Newcastle metropolitan area (as recorded in 2011 by the ABS)
  • Most dwellings are single free standing houses (82%). There are equal numbers of townhouses (9%) and apartments (9%).
  • Only Newcastle City Centre, the surrounding inner suburbs and the University’s Callaghan campus have concentrations of terraces or apartments.  Most of the metropolitan area comprises building stock of predominantly single houses.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • The lack of diversity in building stocks across the metropolitan region creates challenges in meeting the demand for the type of housing that a growing number of people may like in the future.
  • There is high diversity of housing in and around Newcastle City Centre which will provide an opportunity to increase housing in places with good access to transport.
  • The demand for housing in strategic centres in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie is expected to encourage infill development and increased urban density, which has positive outcomes for public transport use and the revitalisation of centres. 

Household Sizes and Dwelling requirements

What we know

  • It is projected that the Greater Newcastle area will require 54,850 new dwellings between 2016 and 2036 to support population and household growth and change.
  • This equates to an average of approximately 2,700 new dwellings per year across the five local government areas.
  • The average household size in Greater Newcastle is currently 2.46 people per household and this is expected to drop to 2.37 by 2036. The reduction in household size alone will mean that even if the population does not increase from 2016 to 2036, an additional 8,800 dwellings will still be required.
  • There are higher rates of unoccupied dwellings around Cessnock, the Vineyards and Newcastle City Centre.

Challenges and Opportunities 

  • Changes to household types and sizes means the number of dwellings required is increasing at a faster rate than population growth.
  • Smaller households may mean that the demand for smaller dwellings, including medium and high density development types increases.

Housing Approvals

What we know 

  • Over the last three years there were 11,230 approvals for new houses. This is an average 3,743 dwellings per year9.
  • These approvals are concentrated around Maitland, Western Newcastle – Lake Macquarie, with growth also occurring in Morisset - Cooranbong, Stockton - Fern Bay 
  • Approvals for apartments are concentrated in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle local government areas. The Newcastle City Centre and inner Newcastle suburbs were hotspots for apartment approvals.

Challenges and Opportunities 

  • The number of housing approvals exceed the projected numbers of implied dwellings required. Gaining an understanding of the difference between building approvals and construction is important, as it is important to understand the  barriers to housing delivery. 
  • Making it clear where housing development should occur through strategic planning is required, such as identifying new housing sites and opportunities for small scale redevelopment.
7, 8 Based on the Department of Planning and Environment’s 2016 Population, and Household Projections

9Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Building Approvals, Australia, March 2017.

People and Community

Population Growth 

What we know

  • The population of Greater Newcastle increased from approximately 541,950 in 2011 to 575,800 in 2016. The population is projected to grow by an additional 116,100 people between 2016 and 2036 which is a growth rate of 1.25% p.a10.
  • The main drivers of population growth across Greater Newcastle are births and domestic migration. 
    Greater Newcastle is growing at a slower rate than other cities, behind all capital cities and many smaller regional cities including Townsville, the Gold Coast, Bendigo, Albury/Wodonga and
  • Toowoomba. Out of the top 20 major cities in Australia, Newcastle was the fifth slowest growing city in 2010-201411.  

Challenges and opportunities

  • Population growth will drive growth in our economy, creating new and diverse jobs and employment opportunities. Metropolitan planning will help us plan for growth to meet the infrastructure, housing, employment and environmental needs of our communities.
  • Growth can lead to pressure on existing infrastructure, housing availability, jobs and the environment.  Metropolitan planning will enable important services and facilities to be located appropriately throughout Greater Newcastle based on population growth. This will help maximise and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how our communities function. 

Want to know more? 

The Department of Planning Environment prepares population projections every two to three years. Read more about the latest projections including background information in 2016 NSW Department of Planning population projections.  

10 Based on the Department of Planning and Environment’s 2016 Population, and Household Projections 
11 Infrastructure Australian, State of Australian Cities 2014 - 2015 

Cessnock population pyramid 2016 to 2036

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greater newcastle cessnock population pyramid 2016 to 2036 834x510

Lake Macquarie population pyramid 2016 to 2036

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greater newcastle lake macquarie population pyramid 2016 to 2036 834x468

Maitland population pyramid 2016 to 2036

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greater newcastle maitland population pyramid 2016 to 2036 834x561

Newcastle population pyramid 2016 to 2036

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greater newcastle newcastle population pyramid 2016 to 2036 834x566

Port Stephens population pyramid 2016 to 2036

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greater newcastle port stephens population pyramid 2016 to 2036 834x638

Domestic Migration 

What we know

  • Between 2006 and 2011, Greater Newcastle recorded a net gain of people moving to the metropolitan area.
  • People moving to Greater Newcastle were most likely to come from adjoining areas (the Upper Hunter, Mid-Coast, Sydney and the Central Coast). There was also a significant number of people moving from Queensland.
  • There is a lot of movement between each local government area within Greater Newcastle.
  • People moving to Greater Newcastle were most likely to settle in Newcastle (2,130) or Lake Macquarie (1,406) Local Government Areas. There was also significant inter-state migration around Newcastle Airport, which is likely to be associated with Williamtown RAAF.  
  • The large number of people moving to Greater Newcastle were in the 20-24 age group (particularly those moving to Newcastle), those leaving are in the 25-29 age group, which is likely to be associated with higher education opportunities. 

Challenges and opportunities

  • A large proportion of the people moving around Greater Newcastle demonstrates the interconnectedness of the area, and the need for greater collaboration.
  • Retaining young people in the 25 – 29 age group is a challenge. Increasing employment opportunities for educated young people might assist.
  • The larger size of Sydney offers future opportunities for increased migration into the Greater Newcastle area. It appears that (up until at least 2011) it was a largely untapped source of domestic migration.
  • Maintaining and improving the liveability of Greater Newcastle (such as access to open space, short commute times, jobs, affordable housing) will make it more attractive and liveable, which may encourage growth through increased migration.

International migration:

What we know

  • There were over 10,000 international arrivals into the Lower Hunter between 2006 to 2011. Newcastle and Lake Macquarie attracted most of these arrivals with over half (5,303) moving to Newcastle and 2,645 moving to Lake Macquarie. It is unclear how many of these arrivals stay short term (such as international students) compared with immigrants who permanently settle here. Sydney had 297,000 international arrivals in the same period.12
  • 14% of Greater Newcastle residents were born overseas. This compares to Sydney, which had 38% of residents born overseas.13
  • Shortland and Jesmond has the highest percentage (11%) of residents who lived overseas within the last five years, indicating that new migrants are likely to live here. This may be associated with the proximity to the University’s Callaghan Campus.
  • People who were born overseas in Greater Newcastle predominantly come from England, New Zealand, Scotland and Germany. A large portion of the Greater Newcastle migrant community also comes from the Philippines, South Africa, China and India.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • International migration is a source of growth in all major Australian cities but makes up a smaller proportion of population growth for Greater Newcastle.
  • The slower rate of population growth for Greater Newcastle is likely to be associated with fewer international migrants being attracted to the area. This has limited the ability to grow Greater
  • Newcastle to achieve growth above the projected growth rates.
  • There are opportunities to attract more migrants and promote the city as a global destination.

12Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, overseas arrivals for NSW - Sydney
13 Australian Bureau of Statistics, "Where do migrants live?"

Net migrants by Local Government Areas 2006 - 2011

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greater newcastle net migrants by local government areas 834x352



What we know14

  • Greater Newcastle is expected to have a much larger proportion of people aged over 65 years by 2036. It is projected that Port Stephens and Cessnock will be impacted more by an ageing population.
  • Newcastle has a relatively higher proportion of people aged between 19-29. This may be due to the presence of the University of Newcastle and other tertiary education providers.

Challenges and opportunities

  • An ageing population brings many challenges including additional demand for health facilities. The Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Area has world-class health and research facilities and enhancing these facilities will assist in responding to an ageing population.
  • New housing needs to provide suitable and adaptable options for the ageing population. Greater Newcastle has the opportunity to become a leader in aged care facilities.
  • Population structures change over generations, which gives us time to think strategically about how our systems will manage change.
  • An ageing population means that the ratio between the elderly population and the working-age population is rising. This ratio is known as the aged dependency ratio. As a percentage of the population, fewer people in the working age group (20-64) means the cost of an ageing population will be born by fewer workers.

Population projection 2011 - 2031

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greater newcastle population projection 834x395

Household Types

What we know15

  • ‘Lone person’ and ‘couple only’ households are projected to be the two fastest growing household types in Greater Newcastle, with an expected increase by 29,900 households by 2036.
  • As a percentage of total households, ‘couple with children’ households are expected to decline by 2% by 2036.

Challenges and opportunities

  • As ‘lone person’ and ‘couple only’ households are growing slightly quicker than other household types, new developments will need to cater for this by providing housing types that suit smaller households, such as apartments and townhouses. This presents an opportunity to develop new houses in central, infill locations.
  • Demand for smaller housing sizes may also be met through small scale renewal. This presents opportunities for a wider range of people to increase the supply of diverse housing through secondary dwellings and granny flats. This needs to be managed so that conflicts do not arise between neighbours.

Household composition forecast 2016 - 2036

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greater newcastle household composition forecast 2016 to2036 834x1239

Education and Qualifications

What we know

  • Approximately 15% of Greater Newcastle’s population have a university qualification.16 People with a university degree are more likely to be located throughout the inner and middle suburbs of Greater Newcastle, and in areas surrounding the Newcastle Airport. The location of these jobs corresponds to workplaces requiring this type of qualification.
  • 33% of people in Greater Newcastle have a trade qualification17. These are distributed more evenly across the metropolitan area.
  • In comparison to the rest of Australia, Greater Newcastle has a smaller proportion of people with a university qualification, but more people with a trade qualification.

Challenges and opportunities

  • There are fewer people in Greater Newcastle with a university qualification. This is likely to be a result of the type of jobs currently found in the metropolitan area and the trend that young people tend to migrate out of the area after completing their studies at the University. Increasing the education level or attracting highly skilled migrants may be required to meet the demand for some types of jobs required in the future.
  • There are more skilled people with trade qualifications, which are required for a diverse economy and can be harnessed for future jobs growth and industries.
  • There is a need to increase Greater Newcastle’s reputation as a Centre of Excellence in Health and Education, and emphasise anchor institutions, such as the University of Newcastle and the John Hunter Hospital.

14, 15 Based on the Department of Planning and Environment’s 2016 Population, and Household Projections
16 Bachelor degree or higher recorded at the 2011 Census
17 Certificate or Advanced Diploma as recorded at the 2011 Census