The Boards of Regional Development Australia Hunter (RDA Hunter) and Regional Development Australia Central Coast (RDACC) met recently to investigate opportunities for greater collaboration and enhance advocacy through joining forces on a multi-regional scale.

Following an initial meeting in December 2018, the multi-regional collaboration facilitated continuing in-depth discussion around the priorities, opportunities and challenges both regions face, and the ability of RDA Boards and staff to assist both regions to achieve their full potential.

RDA Hunter Chair, John Turner, said collaboration is key to regional areas attracting critical funding and advocating effectively on behalf of their communities.

“For the Hunter and the Central Coast to attract our fair share of funding and support from the NSW and Federal governments, it is essential that we collaborate and advocate together for our regions,” said Mr Turner.

RDA Hunter represents the interests of 726,000 residents (forecast to grow to 856,000 by 2036) and RDA Central Coast, 350,000 residents (forecast to grow to 415,000 by 2036).

“This presents a compelling opportunity to be a united voice for more than 1 million current residents, that will grow to close to 1.3 million people by 2036.” Mr Turner added.

RDACC Chair, Phil Walker, said the coming together of the two RDA Boards highlighted the breadth and depth of skills and expertise available between the two organisations.

“As a collective of 21 highly experienced board members who possess a thorough understanding of the needs, opportunities and challenges facing our regions, we are uniquely positioned as the ideal conduit between all three levels of government, businesses, key regional stakeholders and our communities to ensure that our combined regions reach their full economic potential,” said Mr Walker.

“This unprecedented collaboration effort will ensure a non-biased and non-political collective voice on behalf of our Central Coast and Hunter communities; and will assist our regions to be more competitive when advocating and applying for funding to deliver enabling infrastructure”.

This opportunity to advocate on behalf of both regions at a state and federal level resulted in a number of joint Board initiatives including:
1. Expansion of the successful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce development initiative in the Hunter to address the emerging skills needs in the medical and health sectors on the Central Coast;
2. Exploration of opportunities to expand the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between RDACC, the University of Newcastle (UoN) and Newcastle Institute for Energy & Resources (NIER) to develop a Food Innovation Centre of Excellence and Research Centre to benefit both the Central Coast & Hunter regions;
3. A unified approach to support and inform the NSW Government investigation into a fast rail connecting the Hunter and Central Coast regions to Sydney;
4. The combined investigation of opportunities resulting from the M1 motorway upgrade and NorthConnex initiative. These investigations and discussions will also include inland RDA’s to further explore opportunities arising from the NSW Government’s investment in the Parkes National Distribution Hub, and the new $10 Billion Federal Government’s Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail initiative.

The two RDA Boards have committed to locating their next combined meeting in Port Macquarie, to facilitate further participation by RDA Mid North Coast and to explore opportunities to deploy a combined youth pathways program within the three regions, to help address high youth unemployment challenges in these areas.

With further expansion of the Hunter/Central Coast collaboration planned across the state, the collective power of partnerships with a range of regional entities will serve to achieve the best possible outcomes for communities and local economies.