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Looking Forward to 2020 in the Hunter

The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection on the 12 months that have just passed and the milestones that were notched up along the way. But when the clocks tick over at midnight on January 1, 2020, it won’t just signify the start of a new year, but the dawn of a whole new decade.

In the next ten years, the Hunter’s population is predicted to grow significantly as increasing numbers of people relocate to the home of Australia’s largest regional economy, which is valued at more than $40 billion annually.

So it seems only fitting that this month, instead of looking back on what has been, we’re looking forward with excitement to what the next 12 months and beyond will bring for the Hunter Region. As the custodians of much of the growth and change that our region will experience, we asked the Mayors of five local councils to nominate some of the projects or initiatives they are most looking forward to in 2020.



With an area as diverse as Newcastle to represent, it’s no surprise that Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes’ list of top projects is equally wide-ranging, from pushing the city’s cultural and tourism credentials with a new festival to projects that solve community issues and champion sustainability.

Flagship New Festival

Newcastle is renowned as a destination that knows how to put on one heck of a show, with a track record for successfully hosting major events and festivals.

Now the city has set its sights on establishing a new flagship cultural event, which is expected to be launched in late 2020.

The make-up of the event will be shaped by engagement with residents across the local government area, with visual artists, musicians and performers also being consulted.

Cr Nelmes said the festival would mark another milestone in Newcastle’s transformation and demonstrate the City’s commitments to the arts.

“Through culture and the creative arts, we tell our city’s story, share our histories and understand our identity,” she said.

“A key part of the process is listening to our community to ensure Novocastrians shape how this event looks and feels.

“We want a festival that will foster and support our existing grassroots arts and cultural scene while having broad appeal and the ability to attract new audiences.”

The festival will cater to all ages and have a mix of events that will be both free of charge and ticketed.

Anyone keen to have their say on how the new event will look can take part in an online survey on art and culture, with the consultation process closing on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. For more information visit

Replacement of the Tyrrell Street Bridge Wallsend has been one of the hardest-hit areas in Newcastle when it comes to flooding following major rain events.

As part of a wider strategy to combat the issue, City of Newcastle will replace the Tyrrell Street Bridge with a higher, longer span that will allow more floodwater to pass through the Hunter Water-owned channel during rain events.

The existing Tyrrell Street road pavements adjacent to the bridge will also be raised to match the higher bridge level as part of the $3.3 million project, which is currently under construction.

“I’m particularly looking forward to when we complete the rebuild of Wallsend’s Tyrrell Street Bridge in 2020 because the local community has been one of the hardest hit when it comes to flooding during major storms,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Council has committed $3.3 million to make the bridge higher and longer to allow huge volumes of water to flow better through Hunter Water’s Ironbark Creek stormwater channel.

“This is the starting point of a larger public domain program of work in Wallsend to benefit residents, businesses, property owners and visitors to the suburb.”

The existing Tyrrell Street Bridge was built in 1930 and is 17.5m long and 2.6m high. The new bridge will be 26.6m long between abutments and approximately 3m high.

Organics Recycling Facility

Sustainability is the movement of the moment, and there’s no doubt the City of Newcastle is on a roll in this space, with a raft of environmentally-friendly projects and initiatives.

This includes the planned $12.35 million organics recycling facility, which will divert thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill when it is built at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre.

The opening of an organics recycling facility will be a great milestone for Newcastle as it will close the loop on our city’s organic waste cycle. It will take organic waste and convert it into soil conditioner, compost and mulch to be reused by the local community,” Cr Nelmes said.

“This is a win for the environment and contributes significantly towards our sustainable development goals.

“The facility is expected to recycle about 19,000 tonnes of green-bin waste into 11,000 tonnes of organic product in its first year of operation.

"When running at full capacity, the plant will process about 50,000 tonnes of food and garden organics every year.

"That will result in 28,000 tonnes annually of soil conditioner, compost and mulch, which we will use across our operations and sell back to the community."


Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is well on its way to becoming one of Australia’s most vibrant destinations for business and lifestyle.

The city is enjoying a period of record transition, growth and prosperity, with $1.24 billion worth of development approved in the past financial year.

There are many exciting projects and developments on the horizon for Lake Macquarie in 2020, with Mayor Kay Fraser’s top picks focussing on the areas of technology, infrastructure and culture.

Smart Beaches Project

In 2019, Lake Macquarie City Council joined a world-first beach safety initiative, Smart Beaches, which will introduce sensor arrays and a mix of other smart infrastructure to provide earlier detection of dangerous conditions.

The project is being run in partnership with Northern Beaches Council and University of Technology Sydney and will be trialled at two of the LGA’s beaches this summer.

“Throughout summer 2020, we will be trialling a range of technology at Redhead and Blacksmiths Beach to provide real-time and forecasted insights into beach visitation and conditions,” Cr Fraser said.

“This project will arm our professional beach lifeguards with real-time information about beach conditions, beach attendance and weather conditions, allowing them to make informed decisions about beach management, patrol hours and staffing.

“I’m excited to see this technology in action and look forward to learning how smart technology can enhance the service our professional beach lifeguards provide.”

Munibung Road Extension

Next year will also see the completion of roadworks to extend Munibung Road, linking Glendale with Cardiff’s industrial estate.

Cr Fraser said the extension of this road is a catalyst for the development of more than 800 new homes and 20 additional hectares of employment-generating land.

“The project is located within the North West Catalyst Area, which has been recognised as a significant growth opportunity for Lake Macquarie and the wider Hunter Region,” she said.

“Long-term strategic growth cannot be delivered in isolation. Instead, it takes collaboration with all levels of government, the private sector and of course, an agreed community vision to make the potential opportunities for the North-Western part of our city a reality.

“All in all, it is very exciting for our city and wonderful to see that we are taking huge steps in delivering on our opportunities for growth. I look forward to watching this project unfold in 2020.”

Multi-Arts Place

Late in 2020, construction of a $2 million architect-designed multi-arts space will add further excitement to Speers Point Park, providing the essential infrastructure for various events, from edgy art shows to festivals and family-friendly concerts.

Known as MAP - Multi-Arts Place Lake Macquarie – Cr Fraser said the new and exciting facility “will become a focal point for arts and culture in the Hunter Region”.

Pending approval, construction is expected to be completed in late 2020.

“Designed as a platform for creatives, this impressive structure will become a regional destination for outdoor performances such as theatre productions, concerts and opera,” Cr Fraser said.

“This venue will assist in driving cultural tourism and the creative economy in the region, attracting thousands of additional visitors to our City.”



While Lake Macquarie may be banking on the arts to drive new visitors to their city, one of Maitland City Council’s major projects set to be completed in 2020 will look to the sporting sector for its next economic boost.

Maitland Regional Athletics Centre

“One of our major projects which will come to fruition in 2020 is the Maitland Regional Athletics Centre,” Maitland Mayor Loretta Baker said.

“Construction works are now well underway and include a new grandstand, amenities, road access, car parking, drainage, a playground and the crown jewel, an IAAF certified Class 2 synthetic athletics track.

“The new facility, which is being funded by two State Government grants and council, will enable Maitland to attract regional and state-level athletics meets and has the potential to boost the local economy significantly.

“I’m really looking forward to the completion of the facility, which will be yet another regional venue that our community can be immensely proud of.”

The $10.5 million Maitland Regional Athletics Centre is Stage Two of the development of the Maitland Regional Sportsground Precinct, which encompasses both the athletics facility and the nearby No. 1 Sportsground.

The third stage of the precinct (currently in the design phase) will include more parking, an outdoor fitness station and exercise path, and other upgrades to No. 1 Sportsground including new fencing, lighting, amenities, amphitheatre seating and a new LED scoreboard.



Cessnock Mayor Bob Pynsent, meanwhile, is looking to the skies for the city’s economic development opportunities.

Cessnock Airport 2020

“Our vision for Cessnock Airport 2020 is for it to be a well-planned and serviced facility that attracts economic development opportunities for the region,” he said.

“To unlock business investment growth, significant upgrades to the infrastructure at the airport are required. This would include widening and resealing of taxiways; provision of aprons and aircraft parking areas; improved fuel area access; runway extension and resealing; connection of water and sewerage to the western side of the site; fencing; future hangarage and construction of aircraft storage facilities.

“Securing this type of upgrade will position the Cessnock Airport as a significant contributor to the local economy’s sustainability post-mining, in particular as a major tourist and business gateway to the Hunter Valley.”

Cessnock City Council currently has a grant application being considered for the NSW Government’s Growing Local Economies fund to assist with the total project, which is estimated to cost more than $7.5 million.

Black Hill Industrial Precinct

The establishment of the Black Hill Industrial Precinct is also on the horizon, with the Cessnock Development Control Plan updated to include the Black Hill Employment Area.

Cr Pynsent believes the site has huge potential to be transformed into a Hunter freight hub and an industrial precinct, which could be home to up to 1000 jobs.

“It is recognised in the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan as a key catalyst area due to the jobs it could create. It will assist in connecting Greater Newcastle and the Hunter region to global markets, providing a significant advantage in attracting large scale industry to the region,” he said.

“The Cessnock LGA is open for business, and 2020 will be no exception!”


Port Stephens

Fast-tracked community priority projects and a haven for some of the LGA’s most famous “residents” are among the most exciting projects on Mayor Ryan Palmer’s list for next year.

Port Stephens 2020 projects

“There are many great things happening in Port Stephens that our community can look forward to next year, but I’m most excited about our Port Stephens 2020 projects — $15.9 million of community priority projects, which have been fast-tracked for next year,” he said.

“We asked our community to look forward to 2020 and come up with a shortlist of projects they would like to see delivered without increasing rates. The consultation process was overwhelmingly positive, with hundreds of people having their say on the projects they would like to see prioritised.

“As a result, our Port Stephens 2020 projects represent an extra $15.9 million of community priority projects to be carried out over the next year in addition to our regular program of works.

“This includes $5 million for footpaths and cycleways, $2.4 million for town centre revitalisation and $2 million for roads — works that will have a positive impact on the lives of our community for many years to come.”

Cr Palmer said the projects would be funded by optimising investment returns, securing low-interest loans and matching local projects with a broader range of state and federal government grants.

To find out more about the projects being delivered visit

Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary

Nestled among eight hectares of stunning bushland and located on the edge of the magnificent One Mile Beach, the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary will provide a unique opportunity to see the beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

The sanctuary is a partnership with Port Stephens Koalas and will feature a state-of-the-art Koala Clinic with Intensive Care Unit treatment rooms and holding pens.

Visitors will be able to take part in a tailored educational tour, learning about koala care, rehabilitation and the animal’s eventual return back to the wild.

An elevated boardwalk will allow visitors to view the resident koalas in their natural habitat, while on the ground, overnight accommodation in the form of ‘glamping tents’ will offer a unique experience for guests.

The sanctuary will also include an interpretive walk with art installations and educational activities, providing fun-based learning for all ages.

In early 2020, I’m looking forward to opening Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary — a world-class facility that will care for sick, injured or orphaned koalas while allowing visitors and locals to get up close and learn more about our unique koala population,” Cr Palmer said.

“We’re fortunate to share our place with one of the few remaining koala populations on Australia’s east coast. Now more than ever, we need to ensure the preservation of koalas for future generations, and this is one important way we can help to achieve that.

“Australia boasts a $1 billion koala tourism industry and this facility also poses an exciting and profitable tourist opportunity for council.

“Koala Sanctuary is a destination in itself — one that will support Port Stephens’ reputation as one of Australia’s most desirable places to visit. More visitors means more jobs for locals and more money being spent in our region.

“Koala Sanctuary is the culmination of many years planning and raising the necessary funds. The sanctuary has been made possible through a partnership with the NSW Government and volunteer group Port Stephens Koalas.”

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