The transition of Newcastle from a great regional city to an emerging global city has been the centre of attention recently, as 21 of the brightest young professionals presented their solution on how “They have contributed to unprecedented growth that has made Newcastle and the Hunter Region the industry benchmark and world leaders in the global export market by 2037”.

These young professionals participated in this year’s HunterNet Future Leaders Program and formed into four multi-disciplinary teams to consider how Newcastle can leverage off the huge investment in transport, the rejuvenation of the city foreshore, a revitalised central business district, an upsized University and a $6.5billion investment by the NSW Government to make it the new ‘boom city’. The teams worked in a competitive environment using the skills they attained throughout the Program where 12 leadership topics were delivered by leading academics and business leaders from the region and nationally.

The teams were assigned mentors that are senior leaders in their own right who guided their teams through the project and how they brought the Hunter to its successful state in 2037, which involved producing a 20 page report and delivering a 30 minute presentation. This year’s mentors included:

  • Mal Coble – General Manager, University of Newcastle Research Association (TUNRA)
  • Jacqueline Bessa – Business Relationship Manager, Mine Wealth and Wellbeing
  • Gavin Foster – General Manager of Service, Downer Group
  • Gunilla Burrowes – Chair, Eighteen04

The Program encouraged each of the teams to think outside the box when researching and scoping their plan to lead this transition. This included presenting a detailed analysis of how each team would contribute to attracting investment, jobs and opportunities for its citizens and communities.

The submissions and presentations were judged by a stellar judging panel consisting of some of the most experienced and credentialed leaders in our region and indeed nationally:

  • Dr Peter Cock – Chief Executive Officer, Newcastle Airport
  • Kerry Walker – Principal Consultant, Safetyworks
  • Ian Hedley – Managing Director, Hedweld Group
  • Prof Veena Sahajwalla – Director, Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT@UNSW)
  • Tony Cade, CEO HunterNet

The judging panel deliberated over the submissions and presentations and assessed each of them on their merit. The winning team was announced at the annual gala dinner among 180 members of the Hunter Business Community and the winning team is Team Watagan. The members of the winning team included Alis Strickland – performHR, Trish Heagney – NAB, Tim Browne – Umwelt, David Wheatley – ARTC, Petr Klima – Bohemia Simulations and Ryan Fox – Yancoal. The team was mentored by Mal Coble – General Manager TUNRA.

Tim Blakemore from the Future Leaders Committee said:

All four projects were well researched and presented but Team Watagan’s submission was a worth winner. Their holistic approach in bringing the Hunter Region’s strengths to the forefront and the collaborative nature of their Hunter Regional Deal, bringing together industries such as Education, Natural Resources and Tourism made them a standout team this year.

Team Watagan developed and championed a strategy to deliver the Hunter Region to be an industry benchmark in the global export market, which became knows as the Hunter Regional Deal (HRD). The HRD provided a framework which accelerated population growth in the Hunter by 10% more than was projected and jobs by a further 20%. Key to their success was targeting governance, innovation and continued investment in vital infrastructure for a number of industry sectors including: Natural Resources (Mining and Agriculture), Education and Tourism. The HRD drove unprecedented infrastructure investment that has seen international flights which has greatly benefited both the tourism and agriculture sectors.

The CEO of HunterNet and Program Judge Tony Cade said:

We received four practical and innovative submissions, the Team Watagan submission provided the most holistic solution that was seen as the one most able to be implemented that could lead and drive the future development and prosperity of our great City.


Click here to view photos of the Future Leaders Program Gala Dinner (credit: 3L Photography).


Click on the links below to view the team’s submissions:

Team Watagan

Team Sugarloaf

Team Blackbutt

Team Glenrock


Project Brief 2017

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