Hunter can avoid economic decline if it takes early action, diversifies: report

Published: February 06, 2019

A new report dramatically predicts that early action to diversify the economy and invest in regional development could ensure the Hunter Valley avoids the worst economic impacts of a decline in coal mining as the world moves towards a renewable energy future.

A new report dramatically predicts that early action to diversify the economy and invest in regional development could ensure the Hunter Valley avoids the worst economic impacts of a decline in coal mining as the world moves towards a renewable energy future.

The report, Weathering the storm: The case for transformation in the Hunter Valley, was written by researchers at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) and commissioned by Lock the Gate.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said politicians and other community leaders could no longer take a business as usual approach to the coal mining industry in the Hunter.

“Our elected representatives need to be up front with residents - the time to diversify our economy is now. If we fail to do so, it will be at our peril,” she said.

“Mining represents 31% of all jobs in Muswellbrook and 41% of jobs in Singleton.This makes the two shires vulnerable to changes in global coal demand and markets, particularly in Asia, where close to 90% of the coal mined in the Hunter is burned.

“When coal prices and demand fluctuated from highs of $166 in 2008 to lows of $83 in 2014, employment in the coal mining industry fell by 25% over three years - this showed how vulnerable these communities are.”

The report uses the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook forecasts for world coal demand and production under a Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

The SDS assumes that Paris Agreement climate change goals are met along with ensuring universal access to modern energy services. NSW and Federal Governments have both committed to meeting Paris Agreement goals.

“The report outlines a scenario where if we continue with business as usual, employment in the Hunter coal industry would fall by 5,199 jobs by 2040 and wages and salaries by $705M, as the world acts on climate change,” Ms Woods said.

“Expert analysis shows that lack of economic diversity currently in Muswellbrook and Singleton means that workers will not be able to move into alternative employment while remaining in the region.

“There is hope, but we need our politicians to be upfront with the public and to provide support to start diversifying the economy now.

“Previous examples of rapid structural adjustment around the world and in Australia have shown that it is absolutely crucial to acknowledge and prepare for change in advance, and for governments to provide substantial financial support.

“The UWS analysis also identifies a positive scenario for the Hunter if we take early action and diversify -  595 more jobs could be created than will be lost from coal mining and local wages and salaries could increase by $315 million to 2040.

“The community has been calling for a plan to diversify the Hunter and prepare for coal’s decline and this new analysis confirms that is the only path that can protect the Hunter, its workers and communities.

“This change is happening now, and we can either adapt, prepare and prosper, or rest on our laurels and see the Hunter’s economy crumble before us.”

Read the full report here.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

connect

get updates