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Hunter’s economy worth $25bn by 2031

GROWTH: Rail improvements between Newcastle and Sydney should be a government infrastructure priority, report finds.STATE and federal governments should invest in major infrastructure projects like high-speed broadband and high-frequency public transport connections in Newcastle to help grow its population in the next 15 years, a new report has found.

The Australian Infrastructure Plan, released on Wednesday, is supposed to inform the federal government’s infrastructure needs for the next 15 years, and included almost 80 recommendations that could boost the economy by an estimated $40 billion.

It states that by 2031 the Hunter’s economy –excluding Newcastle –will be worth $25 billion, making it by farthe largest regional economy on the east coast.

However it also states that population growth in Newcastle –at about 15.4 per cent,will be slower thanother major regional centres like the Gold Coast.

Among the report’srecommendations is a suggestion that Newcastleand other regional cities“should be supported by governments, businesses and local communities to grow their populations and economies”.

It argues thattransport and communicationimprovements couldtake growth pressures off major cities like Sydney.

“These cities could enable more Australians to live in a smaller city and access employment opportunities in one of our major metropolises,” the report states.

It includes a number of“infrastructure priorities” related toNewcastle, including a“near-term” need topreservea corridor for a lower Hunter freight rail realignment that wouldbypass of the Newcastle urban area to avoid“capacity constraints”.

It also lists connectivity between Newcastle, Wollongong and theSydney central business district as a longer term issue that requires“ rail line upgrades” to address.

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