HunterNet Future Leaders winners announced

HunterNet Future Leaders winners announced

The transition of Newcastle from a great regional city to an emerging global city was the centre of attention again this week as 21 of the brightest young professionals presented their solution on how they have contributed to unprecedented growth that has made Newcastle and the Hunter Region the industry benchmark and world leaders in the global export market by 2037.

These young professionals participated in this year’s HunterNet Future Leaders Program and formed into four multi-disciplinary teams to consider how Newcastle can leverage off the huge investment in transport, the rejuvenation of the city foreshore, a revitalised central business district an upsized university, and a $6.5 billion investment by the NSW Government to make it the new boom city.

The teams worked in a competitive environment using the skills they attained throughout the program through which 12 leadership topics were delivered by leading academics and business leaders from the region and nationally.

The teams were assigned mentors that are senior leaders in their own right who guided the teams in the development of their integrated transport solution, which involved producing a 20 page report and delivering a 30 minute presentation.

The winners of the program were announced at the Hunternet Future Leaders Annual Gala Dinner last week amongst 180 members of the Hunter business community.

The winning team was Team Watagan, with members including Alis Strickland from Perfrom HR, Trish Heagney from NAB, Tim Browne from Umwelt, David Wheatley from ARTC, Petr Klima from Bohemia Simulations and Ryan Fox from Yancoal. The team was mentored by Mal Coble, General Manager at Tunra.

Tim Blakemore from the Future Leaders Committee said all projects were well researched, but Team Watagan’s submission was a worthy winner.

“Their holistic approach to bringing the Hunter Region’s strengths to the forefront and the collaborative nature of their Hunter Regional Deal, bringing together industries such as education, natural resources and tourism, made them the standout team this year,” Tim said.

Team Watagan developed and championed a strategy to deliver the Hunter Region to be an industry benchmark in the global export market, which became known as the Hunter Regional Deal (HRD). The HRD provided a framework which accelerated population growth in the Hunter by 10% more than was projected and jobs by a further 20%.

Key to their success was targeting governance, innovation and continued investment in vital infrastructure for a number of industry sectors including natural resources (mining and agriculture), education and tourism.

The HRD drove unprecedented infrastructure investment that has seen a massive increase to the integrated public transport network underpinned by the extension light rail. It has also seen the container terminal come to fruition, facilitated the airport runway upgrade and generated an increase in international flights, which has greatly benefited both the tourism and agriculture sectors.

CEO of HunterNet and Program Judge, Tony Cade said the judges received four practical and innovative submissions, all of which are able to be implemented.

“The Team Watagan submission provided the most holistic solution that was seen as the one most able to be implemented that could lead and drive the future development and prosperity of our great city,” Tony said.

IMAGE | The winning team – Team Watagan. From left to right – Tim Browne, Ryan Fox, Trish Heagney, Hon Scot MacDonald,  Mal Coble (team mentor), Tony Cade (HunterNet), Alis Strickland, David Wheatley, Petr Klima, Steve Tolley – HunterNet


HunterNet help businesses grow, innovate and thrive – and believe this begins with collaboration. By sharing ideas, developing capabilities, delivering support, and stimulating opportunities, HunterNet spark industry synergy, build strong work communities, unlock business acumen and create brighter futures for all.   

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