The Hunter Valley Research Foundation's (HVRF) latest Upper Hunter economic indicators highlight the extent of the region's dependence on the mining industry, with 2013 a particularly difficult year for local businesses.
HVRF Senior Research Fellow Jenny Williams said that although there are signs that the worst may be over for the Upper Hunter in the short term, following the shock to local business from the withdrawal of resource investment stimulus, the medium to longer-term remains uncertain.
“Coal production continues to increase on the back of the recent investment, the labour market remains resilient, and consumer confidence recovered somewhat in late 2013,” Jenny said.
“However, the historical drivers of economic growth in the Upper Hunter are unlikely to recur.”
“The current situation presents a timely opportunity for businesses to take stock and consider some of the opportunities posed by medium and longer-term factors shaping the regional and national economy.”
The December quarter 2013 Upper Hunter Region Economic Indicators were released at the first function in the HVRF's 2014 Upper Hunter breakfast series last week.
Key findings include:
- Renewed residential building activity ‚Äì stimulating growth in the Hunter and NSW ‚Äì unlikely to occur in the Upper Hunter due to reduced demand
- Consumer confidence recovers from GFC-equivalent lows ‚Äì positive sign for retail
- Non-mining investment unlikely to pick up quickly due to excess capacity
- Longer-term drivers of structural change and economic growth present both challenges and opportunities
The breakfast function also featured Wayne Calder, Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, and Chris Salisbury, Managing Director of Rio Tinto Coal Australia.
The full Upper Hunter Region Economic Indicators publication is available for download from the HVRF website.