OPINION: Our city is ready to spark

By RICHARD ANICICH Jan. 12, 2014, 10 p.m.


VIEWING 2014 as a promising year for business or one that will continue to be plagued with challenges will depend on whether you are a glass half-full or a glass half-empty kind of person.

I’d prefer to take the glass half-full approach and, with some measured caution, look forward to a year ahead that sees many opportunities for our economy, both locally and nationally.

The results of the NSW Business Chamber Business Conditions Survey late last year indicated that 39 per cent of Hunter businesses expect an improvement in business conditions and a stronger economy in this quarter. There are also signs of improving consumer confidence in the Hunter.

This is certainly reflective of the sentiment coming from other national survey data released over the last week around business optimism and it is encouraging to see. There are signs that the residential construction market is recovering, with the number of building approvals continuing to increase on a monthly basis.

Along with improving consumer confidence, this hopefully means that the drop in the RBA official cash rate to 2.5 per cent is starting to have an effect in stimulating economic activity leading to increased investment and job creation.

The more recent drop in the value of the Australian dollar may take longer to have any real effect and questions still remain on what will happen to the dollar and what impact this will have on spending, on exports, on housing and on jobs.

Manufacturing and exporters overall have experienced a challenging period and I’ve purposely avoided the term year because the reality is that it’s been a much longer period than just the past 12 months.

The manufacturing and service industries that are connected with commercial and residential construction will hopefully see signs of improvement.

This year should see the start of work on urban renewal projects in the Newcastle CBD, including the much debated changes to our transport systems, progress on the first stage of a light rail system in the city and the opening up of the CBD to the harbour. The sense of renewal and optimism from these developments will no doubt be a catalyst for further investment and job creation in the city with flow-on effects across the Hunter region.

Urban renewal will feature prominently on our region’s list of priorities this year, as will our call for greater clarity and certainty in a somewhat flawed planning system…

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