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Newcastle to Asia and beyond

By Damon Cronshaw
The extended range of Code E aircraft from Newcastle Airport, with an upgraded runway.
NSW Department of Regional NSW deputy director Scott Goold at Chateau Elan at Pokolbin for the Inaugural Hunter Property Conference.
Deputy director Scott Goold at Chateau Elan at Pokolbin for the Inaugural Hunter Property Conference.

The Hunter will have big opportunities to sell goods like fresh produce and beverages in Asia with an upgraded Newcastle Airport runway, a senior NSW government official says.

Scott Goold, NSW Department of Regional NSW deputy director for the Hunter, spoke about "future opportunities" at the Inaugural Hunter Property Conference at Chateau Elan at The Vintage in Pokolbin on Friday.

Mr Goold showed a slide that highlighted the airport's $66 million "Code E runway upgrade", which enables longer flights and larger aircraft.

This extended the range for flights to and from Newcastle to airports in Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, India, Dubai in the UAE, South Africa, Hawaii and Los Angeles in the US and Argentina.

He said the slide "highlights the magnitude of this opportunity" for increased tourism and business activity.

"It will really expand our reach across Asia and beyond. A lot of these international businesses will be able to fly straight into here."

He said the logical move would be for Newcastle to link with Singapore to "form an international hub that a lot of flights would come into".

"There's already talks underway about how to make that happen with Singapore.

"There's not only tourism and business travel, but the potential benefits on the logistics side as well - particularly for our region around fresh produce and beverages. There's a lot of merit and competitive advantage in being able to get into a lot of the Asian markets on the same day with that fresh produce."

He said there was a "long way to go" because international freight and logistics were "a complicated area".

Property Council Hunter chapter chairman Neil Petherbridge said uplifting airport freight would boost tourism.

Mr Petherbridge said getting fresh produce into overseas markets would be "massive for our region".

"That leads to generating the flights for people and that's happy days for tourism," he said.

Mr Goold highlighted business sectors for expansion in the region as energy, defence, advanced manufacturing and tourism.

His team had hosted delegations from Japan and Korea in the past six months, with Business Hunter and Investment NSW.

The Korean visits included "company-specific" meetings, along with a wider delegation from the country's hydrogen industry.

"We'll soon be hosting a delegation from Germany at the end of this month and we're in discussion around a delegation from France at the end of June."

The delegations were shown the region's infrastructure and potential in hydrogen and renewables.

"The Japanese and Koreans have massive hydrogen targets. That's a massive export opportunity for us.

"There's a logic because they've been buying our coal for a very long time, so we're already on the radar."

He said there was a "lot of interest" in the government-backed Hunter hydrogen hub plan.

"A lot of people feel the term 'hub' might indicate a specific location in the region. But, in my view, this will cover a significant part of the entire region," he said.

"That will range from AGL's Liddell site to Port of Newcastle and potentially down to Lake Munmorah."

He said moving hydrogen for domestic use and export would "involve a range of infrastructure initiatives".

He said the 52-hectare Intertrade site, the former BHP land at Mayfield, was "so significant in its proximity to the harbour and port" and had "huge job-creation potential for the region".

"What ends up landing at that Mayfield site will have a big knock-on effect for the broader region, with a lot of benefits."

McCloy Group development director Shane Boslem said the Hunter was well placed to embrace future opportunities, as the region transitions away from coal.

"But a lot more does need to be done. It's very much at its infancy level at the moment," Mr Boslem said.

"Some of the technologies need to evolve still, but it's good that we're planning for it. I think that transition away from coal will happen a lot quicker than the average person expects."

The McCloy Group parts owns the former Kurri aluminium site, where a new gas-fired power station is being built. The plant will have the potential to operate on green hydrogen in future.

"We've had interest show from different renewable energy generators," he said.

"We have the land and access to the grid."

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