Matthew Kelly reporting for the Newcastle Herald

Updated June 28 2023 – 5:20pm, first published 5:00pm

Williamtown precinct essential for region's growth

Williamtown precinct essential for region’s growth

The Committee for the Hunter has urged the State Government to commit to the development of the Williamtown Special Activation Precinct, which is now the subject of a review.

The committee has identified the project, which has the potential to create 4300 jobs over the next 40 years, as a key regional priority.

“There is no doubt that the SAP is a complex project that offers significant benefits if unlocked. That’s exactly why the NSW Government must play a leadership role in planning and delivery,” Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said.

The Williamtown project is one of six Special Activation Precincts that are now under review as part of a broader Strategic Infrastructure Review of the state’s capital infrastructure program.

“We expect any review to strengthen and accelerate development, not put this in the too hard basket,” Ms Thompson said.

Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson

Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson

“The SAP model, with government-led master planning, enabling infrastructure, anchor development and investment concierge, is excellent, proven and delivering for other regions in NSW.”

With the Hunter’s $65 billion economy moving through an historic transition phase, Ms Thompson said it was imperative to create new jobs and economic activity in sectors of competitive advantage, including defence.

“Let’s make sure Williamtown stays on the State’s Special Activation Precinct agenda and stakeholders continue to work constructively through the issues to make this happen,” she said.

Minister for regional NSW Tara Moriarty said on Tuesday told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday that the review’s initial findings and recommendations would be delivered to support the 2023-24 NSW State Budget. A final review report will then be prepared for consideration by Cabinet.

Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer was also vocal in his support for the project.

“To lose a project as big as the Special Activation Precinct would be a great loss to the whole region, if not the country,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean that we won’t have a great defence aviation industry because we will still have the Astra aerospace precinct, but we should be looking at something much grander than that.

“Just because there’s been a change of government doesn’t mean we should miss out as a region.”

The Williamtown SAP was also meant to act as a catalyst for regional infrastructure projects including the Newcastle container terminal, the Newcastle Airport expansion and Hexham to Fassifern freight bypass.