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2016 and the Hunter’s fair share of the spoils

The Hunter Region haslong had a problematic relationship with Sydney.Early on, Newcastle was a prison for the most incorrigible of Sydney’s fledgling population.

From the 1930s until 1967 –when the idea went southat a referendum –there was widesupport for the Hunter and the New England to form a breakaway new state.

Since then, arguments have ranged back and forth about the Hunter’s substantial contribution to state coffers, and the sometimes questionable support it receives in return.This imbalance is as relevantas ever as we head into 2016with question marks still hanging over thegovernment’s commitment toalight-rail-driven rejuvenation of the Newcastle CBD.

The Wickham interchange was unveiledin December 2012, with light rail added six months later.December 2012 also saw the government announce a much larger light rail line running for 12 kilometresbetween Randwick and Circular Quay, and taking inGeorge Street, Sydney.

Three years later, George Street is a construction site and the first trains are scheduled to run from mid-2018.

Progress in Newcastle has been noticeably slower, and the longer the delays continue, the greater the fears thatthe government is not serious about the project, and mayfind an excuse, sooner or later, to call it off.

Having come this far, the government must deliver on its promise to helpNewcastle become the modern, well-serviced citythe majority of its residents surely want it to be.

The cranes dotting the CBD skyline are evidence of a greaterinvestor interestin the region, which is poised, economically, on the cusp of a potentially historic pivot.

Having already lost much of its steel production, the Hunter’s other industrial stalwart, coal, is facing unprecedented international pressure.

Two hours drive away, Sydney’s population is set to risefrom 4.5 million to 6.3 million in the coming 20 years, almost twice the rate of the Hunter’s projected growth from 625,000 to 755,000.

Already struggling to win its justifiable share of government spending, the Hunter region risks being overlooked completely, given the obvious demands on Macquarie Street to spend its money closer to home.

We can still achieve a future more prosperous, butwe will have to fight hard, with a single voice, to achieve it.

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