Designing the future look of the Hunter region is now open for public comment following the release of the Draft Hunter Regional Plan 2041

Designing the future look of the Hunter region is now open for public comment following the release of the Draft Hunter Regional Plan 2041.

These plans are released every five years and are indicative of the mood within government as to where each region should head economically and socially for the next 20 years.

GREY: The shaded area list all the mines in the Singleton LGA. Source Draft Hunter Regional Plan.

GREY: The shaded area list all the mines in the Singleton LGA. Source Draft Hunter Regional Plan.

The plan is developed within the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

It lists nine big ideas for our future and in the case of the Central Hunter, covering the major centres of Singleton and Muswellbrook, the idea with the biggest impact will be to ensure the: Hunter makes a sustainable transition to a net zero emissions future and remains the leading regional economy in NSW. We are planning for greater diversification of the land used for mining and energy generation to open new opportunities for jobs in renewables and green industries.

Singleton Local Government Area is home to 14 mines - 11 of which are open cut mines.

According to the plan 'Coal is likely to have a finite lifespan as an energy source. The world has begun to change cleaner forms of energy generation that will occur over the coming decades. The Government will work to support coal dependent communities to diversify for the future. This will ensure these communities remain vibrant places to live with good employment opportunities.'

As part of this transition to net zero emissions the existing coal-fired power stations of Liddell and Bayswater will close (Liddell is set to close in 2023) and the former site between Singleton and Muswellbrook repurposed to include renewable energy projects and an intensive agriculture hub. Former coal mines are expected to be rehabilitated with some returning to agricultural production others becoming biodiversity corridors linking different landscapes and others used for industrial projects or residential development.

Critical industry clusters for viticulture and equine are to be protected and given room to grow which would mean in the case of the Pokolbin vineyards ensuring neighbouring land development does not impinge on the region's character or ability to 'farm'.

Now achieving these outcomes is the number one question given coal is 'the state's largest export commodity, and is a major source of revenue, which the NSW Government uses to help fund essential services and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, roads and transport.'

So on the one hand the government is committed to and supportive of the coal industry as mining projects continue to be approved but accepts the importance of achieving net zero emissions.

Currently the Hunter's leading vignerons are waging a major campaign against a mine lease adjacent to their vineyards in Pokolbin and the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association have and continue to fight against mine proposals and extensions near their horse studs.

Reconciling these differences, though not really part of the plan per se, are at the heart of what a future Hunter will look like.

The public have until 11.59pm Friday March 4, 2022 to have their say on the draft plan https://dpie.mysocialpinpoint.com.au/hunter-2041.