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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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The leading regional economy in Australia with a vibrant new metropolitan city at its heart 

The Hunter is the leading regional economy in Australia, with thriving communities and a biodiversity-rich natural environment. The Hunter is home to more than 860,000 people and is still growing due to its reputation as one of the great places to live and work.


Greater Newcastle is the centrepiece of the region, renowned as a connected metropolitan city where 95 per cent of residents live within 30 minutes of a strategic centre, including the new growth areas at Glendale and Broadmeadow. 


Newcastle City Centre is the heart of Greater Newcastle and the capital of the region. The city centre has been transformed by capitalising on its active port, vibrant waterfront and heritage. It hosts more residents, students, businesses, researchers, educators and entrepreneurs than ever before. 


A knowledge centre of excellence in health and education is providing world-class research into medical technologies, agricultural productivity, renewable energy and mining services. 


A skilled science, technology and engineering workforce is engaged in advanced manufacturing and digital technologies. 


Beyond Greater Newcastle are vibrant centres, towns and villages, many of which have benefited from emerging job opportunities in the health, agriculture, tourism, defence, energy and transport sectors. Faster inter-regional transport and digital technology are making it easier for residents and businesses to interact and do business. 

Newcastle Airport is synonymous with the technology, defence and aerospace industries.


The Port of Newcastle is a vital hub for exporting agricultural produce (including prized beef, lamb, dairy and oilseed) and coal to new markets throughout Asia. Productive agricultural land and natural resources are the foundations of the region’s gross domestic product. 


Visitors are arriving in greater numbers on cruise ships, via Newcastle Airport and by a variety of rail and highway links to sample international quality wines and fresh food, walk along convict-built trails, trek through World Heritage-listed national parks and swim at lovely beaches. 


Infrastructure investment is the linchpin of economic development across the Hunter. It supports freight, health and education services, and agribusiness and tourism, as well as building resilience to global economic cycles and climate change. 


Greater housing choice is available in existing and new communities, close to jobs and services and well supported by public transport and walking and cycling options. More housing has reduced the upward pressure on house prices.


Communities are enjoying a green grid of open space and recreational facilities – including more walking and cycling networks – as well as the distinctive character and heritage of their areas.


The region’s protected natural environment enriches the experience of living in the region, sustains the region’s water supply and protects biodiversity. 

To achieve this vision the NSW Government has acknowledged the growing importance of Greater Newcastle and set the following regionally focused goals:

  • The leading regional economy in Australia;

  • A biodiversity-rich natural environment;

  • Thriving communities; and

  • Greater housing choice and jobs.

Hunter 2036 map

Click to enlarge.


Greater Newcastle is a key element in the future productivity of the Hunter region and critical to it being the leading regional economy in Australia. It comprises the closely connected urban areas of Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Newcastle and Port Stephens local government areas (see Figure 4 for indicative boundary).


Presently, Greater Newcastle is home to around 475,000 people but it is expected to grow to around 600,000 over the next 20 years.2


To build economic prosperity across the entire region, over the next 20 years Greater Newcastle must leverage emerging macro trends that include growing demand in Asia for agricultural produce, increasing environmental tourism and greater demand for education and innovation in medical research.


The NSW Government commits to developing and delivering the first-ever Metropolitan Plan for Greater Newcastle. The vision is for a vibrant new metropolitan area with global gateways that maximise exports and tourism, and a centre of excellence for health and education.


A strategic long term plan that crosses local council boundaries will ensure that homes, jobs and infrastructure are delivered in the right locations, and that the region’s competitive advantages, environmental assets and natural resources are safeguarded and maximised.


There are four important elements to the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan:

  • connect strategic centres in Greater Newcastle;
  • develop a national Centre of Excellence for Health and Education;
  • expand the capacity of Global Gateways – Newcastle port and airport; and
  • establish governance.


1. Connect strategic centres in Greater Newcastle

The success of metropolitan Newcastle depends on the ability to develop, diversify and connect strategic centres, including a successful city centre. These are the largest centres of activity and employment in the region. They contain significant clusters of professional, retail, health and education services that are forecast to be major drivers of the economy in the future.


Reinforcing and encouraging development in strategic centres will help sustain their functions and create jobs closer to home. Improving connections between strategic centres and transport nodes will make it easier for people to get to work, to recreation facilities and to services.


A large portion of the 50,000 dwellings3 and 48,000 jobs4 required in Greater Newcastle by 2036 will be accommodated through the renewal of established areas. Revitalising Newcastle’s historic city centre and transforming Broadmeadow and Glendale into attractive places to live, work and visit will be key components of this renewal.


Population-driven growth will be matched by the opportunities created by emerging technology and the enhanced role of the port and airport in freight and logistics.


The completion of the Inner City Bypass, walking paths and cycleways will help to support the network of strategic centres and make urban living even more appealing. They will also help achieve the Regional Plan’s target of 95 per cent of people living within 30 minutes of a strategic centre by 2036.


2. Develop a national Centre of Excellence for Health and Education

The University of Newcastle is expanding its presence in Newcastle City Centre with a $95 million investment.5 The John Hunter Hospital is the principal referral centre for northern NSW and the Hunter region. Together, these facilities offer health and research facilities of an international standard. Private sector investment and Government infrastructure could further enhance their productivity.


The world-class health, education and research services at the Callaghan and John Hunter Hospital campuses will help attract more well-paid knowledge-based jobs to the region.


Further, innovative research clusters that leverage the capabilities of the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources will help expand the knowledge capacity of the region.


Infographic showing components of Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan


3. Expand the capacity of Global Gateways – Newcastle port and airport

Greater Newcastle benefits from direct access to national and international markets through the global gateways of Newcastle Airport and the Port of Newcastle. They have enabled the Hunter to become the largest regional economy in Australia and an important gateway for regional NSW for goods and tourists.


The region’s ongoing economic prosperity will depend on its ability to capitalise on these strategic assets. The gateways and their associated networks will be safeguarded so they remain viable, globally competitive and adaptable.


Improving connectivity and ‘last mile connections’ between freight routes – and to the Port of Newcastle and Newcastle Airport – will improve freight movements to global markets and drive regional economic growth. It will also improve connections between the labour force and global markets, sustaining productivity in the Hunter.


4. Establish Governance

The Hunter Development Corporation will have responsibility across the Hunter region. It will lead the coordinated and integrated economic development and infrastructure planning that is necessary to grow Greater Newcastle as a metropolitan area. The Government acknowledges the calls to set up a new Commission. This will be investigated by the Government.


Greater Newcastle Strategic Centre Connectivity map

Click to enlarge



The Hunter is entering a new and exciting phase with a growing metropolitan area, greater economic diversification and global gateways that link the region to the rest of the world. It has thriving communities and a diverse natural environment that will help to underpin not just the future prosperity of the region but also the State.


These are the key attributes in the Hunter Regional Plan 2036 – a 20-year blueprint for the future that reflects community and stakeholder aspirations, the significance of the region’s contribution to Gross State Product and its location on the fastest growing population corridor in the State. 


Greater Newcastle will have its first metropolitan plan focused on connecting a network of strategic centres including a revitalised Newcastle City Centre, developing a centre of excellence for health and education and achieving a target of 95 per cent of residents living within a 30-minute trip to a strategic centre that has shops, dining, entertainment and services.


The Hunter’s increasingly diversified economy and global gateways – the Port of Newcastle and Newcastle Airport – will enable the region and the State to satisfy the demand from growing Asian economies for products and services associated with education, health, agriculture, resources and tourism. 


Business innovation, the expansion of advanced manufacturing and the defence and aerospace industries, a dynamic agricultural sector and a diversified energy sector will generate local jobs. 

More housing and greater housing choice will be available throughout the Hunter including within Greater Newcastle, existing towns and villages, and the growth areas of the Maitland Corridor, Newcastle - Lake Macquarie Western Corridor and the emerging corridor centred on Cooranbong, Morisset and Wyee.   


A ‘green grid’ will link open space, natural areas and recreation facilities, supplemented by the protection of high environmental value areas and biodiversity corridors. 


Transport networks, including cycling and walking paths, will be extended for both recreation and commuting, and enhanced inter-regional transport connections will bolster business and industry growth.


We recognise the Awabakal, Worimi, Wonnarua, Biripi and Geawegal people are original custodians of the Hunter region. They are important partners in the economic, social and environmental future of the Hunter.


The Hunter Regional Plan 2036 encompasses a vision, goals and actions geared to delivering greater prosperity in the years ahead for those who live and work in this important region. I urge everyone committed to the Hunter to unite in support of it.

Scot MacDonald MLC
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter

The Hunter’s future has far-reaching consequences for NSW and Australia

The Hunter has the largest share of both regional population and regional employment and is located in the State’s fastest growing corridor – from the northern edge of Sydney to Newcastle. The projected population along this corridor is estimated to be 1.1 million by 2036.1  


This makes for an exciting future for the Hunter and the Hunter Regional Plan 2036 is the blueprint to deliver that future.  

The Plan will guide the NSW Government’s land use planning priorities and decisions over the next 20 years. It is not intended to be a step-by-step approach to all land use planning. Rather, it provides an overarching framework to guide subsequent and more detailed land use plans, development proposals and infrastructure funding decisions. While a series of priority actions are included, medium and longer term actions will be identified to coincide with population growth and economic change. 


Priorities for each council are set out in Local Government Narratives, which will guide further investigations and implementation. 


The Hunter Regional Plan 2036 is the product of extensive consultation with councils, stakeholders and the wider community, conducted around a discussion paper (Lower Hunter) released in 2014 and a draft plan released in 2015. The feedback from these consultations has been integral to finalising the Plan.


The Hunter Regional Plan 2036 provides the strategy necessary to deliver the vision for the Hunter region.


Overview infographics for Hunter regional plan

Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund

The NSW Government’s Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund is supporting economic growth and enhancing the liveability of the region. 

It is delivering funding for the Lake Macquarie Football Centre, Singleton Gym and Swim Complex, Hunter Sports High School, John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Nelson Bay Road, New England Highway and Wine Region Roads.

In 2016 the Government announced funding for the following projects:

New Cruise Ship Terminal

$12.7 million to build a new 3,000 square metre multi-purpose cruise ship terminal in Newcastle Harbour. This project will secure the future of cruise shipping in Newcastle and gives the city and the region the opportunity to compete for the growing east coast tourism trade.

Hunter Innovation Project

$9.8 million to provide free Wi-Fi, cutting edge smart parking and smart street lighting technology and a new innovation hub for researchers, students, industry and entrepreneurs. The project provides a significant boost for Newcastle and capitalises on its strong education and research sectors, the region’s highly skilled workforce and diverse range of industries.

To deliver the Hunter Regional Plan 2036 all levels of government, the private sector and the community will have to work together. The Plan needs to be incorporated into each stakeholder’s future activities. 


The Hunter Development Corporation will deliver, coordinate and be accountable for achieving the vision and goals of the Plan. The Corporation will listen and work with all stakeholders and the community to make sure that growth is aligned with infrastructure and delivered in the right places at the right times. 


The Corporation will take ownership for implementing the Plan. In the short term, it will develop a Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Area Plan and oversee action on planning for land along the Hunter Expressway; global gateways; economic changes in the Upper Hunter; and the protection of regionally significant biodiversity corridors. The Government acknowledges the calls to set up a new Commission. This will be investigated by the Government. 


Funding will be provided to growth areas for regional infrastructure for the transport, health, education and justice sectors, as well as for open spaces. The Government will have a Hunter Region Special Infrastructure Contributions Plan that outlines a schedule of infrastructure projects to support growth. 


The Plan sets priorities and provides a direction for regional planning decisions. It focuses on new housing and jobs and targets growth in strategic centres and renewal corridors close to transport to deliver social and economic benefits. It sets in place line-of-sight land use planning for the region, regional districts like the Greater Newcastle metropolitan area and each council area. 

Hunter Development Corporation
  • Aligning across Government
  • Partnering with local government
  • Informing infrastructure priorities
  • Guiding investment
  • Listening to the community
  • Actioning the Implementation Plan
  • Funding infrastructure investment with a Special Infrastructure Contributions Plan
  • Directing regional district planning
  • Supporting local planning
  • Monitoring activity 
    and trends
  • Publishing annual reports and information
  • Revising and adjusting directions towards goals

Regional district planning will be done through a partnership with all stakeholders and will be led by the Corporation. Priorities for regional district planning are included where matters cross council or jurisdictional boundaries. 


A Government direction will be issued to councils so that when they prepare new planning proposals or update local planning controls, they are consistent with the vision and guiding principles of the Regional Plan. The Local Government Narratives provide detailed guidance for each council. The Corporation will support the preparation of local land use strategies that help to translate the vision and guiding principles of the Plan into more detailed priorities for growth and change that can be applied at the local level.


The Corporation will monitor and review progress towards achieving the vision and goals of the Plan. This will help prioritise Government infrastructure delivery and influence policy settings. 
An annual report will be prepared that considers indicators such as housing, employment, communities and the environment, and offers advice to Government on the delivery of short term actions. 
Every five years, or as necessary, the Plan will be reviewed and adjusted to make sure the vision for 2036 is realised.

Planning hierarchy

Concentric circles showing local plans at the centre



Page last updated: 16/05/2018