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International aspirations for the Greater Hunter Region are gaining momentum with a business and government delegation from the region in Singapore this week.

The delegation is a key recommendation from the 2022 Hunter Global Summit held in February, which focused on ways to leverage Newcastle Airport's impending long distance international capability from a whole of region economic perspective.

Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said the visit is a significant opportunity for regional leaders from across key industries and organisations in the Hunter to demonstrate strong and unified support from the region.

“The visit to Singapore will showcase our region on an international stage and reinforces our capability and interest in establishing a direct link with a major Asian hub, and our commitment towards strengthening ties with important trade and business partners,” Dr Cock said.

“A key focus for Newcastle Airport will be securing an airline partner to connect our region with Singapore, and we’ll be continuing our discussions with a number of potential partners during the visit.”

Co-host of the Greater Hunter Region delegation, Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes, said the opportunities for growth in trade and investment between the two regions are limitless.

"Business Hunter has been in talks with the NSW Trade and Investment Commissioner for the ASEAN region since he commenced in the role, and having his support on the trip shows that NSW is backing our region to grow ties and boost two-way economic growth with Singapore,” Mr Hawes said.

"We're an attractive and diverse region for business relationships from Singapore to grow in energy, defence, freight exchange and agriculture and viticulture. We'll be showcasing the lot to our Singaporean neighbours to support growth in the existing trade relationship we have with this region.

“This trade growth will only continue upwards should it be underpinned by a direct air route into the Hunter from Singapore, and that’s what we are aiming for.”

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer agreed on the ability for the airport to drive transformational change in the region.

“Port Stephens Council recognises the strategic importance of Newcastle Airport to drive growth in tourism, exports and local economies for the future of the region. As a region poised for growth, we look forward to demonstrating our commitment and support for the airport’s continued expansion to delegates at this upcoming visit,” said Mayor Palmer.

A highlight of the visit will be a welcome reception with the Australian High Commissioner to Singapore, His Excellency Mr William Hodgman, where City of Newcastle will honour six prominent Singaporean leaders with Keys to the City of Newcastle presented by Lord Mayor and Newcastle Airport Board Director Nuatali Nelmes. All recipients are Colombo Plan alumnus who studied in Australia before returning to contribute to the development of Singapore.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said each of the Colombo scholars exemplified the City of Newcastle Ambassador Program, the purpose of which was to highlight the efforts of Novocastrians, both born and adopted, who resided in Newcastle and other parts of Australia and the world. 

"Together, the Colombo scholars have many decades' of experience and achievements spanning the political, business, housing, development and transport sectors, which have greatly benefited Singaporeans and citizens the world over," Cr Nelmes said. 

"Each of them reflect fondly on their time spent in Newcastle and attribute many of their successes abroad to this enriching experience, and for that the City of Newcastle acknowledges and celebrates their ongoing efforts to promote the city." 

The Singapore trip is an important step towards connecting the Greater Hunter Region with the world and coincides with progress on home turf where efforts are firmly focused on delivering a Newcastle Airport that is international ready.

“If you’ve been to Newcastle Airport recently you may have noticed construction activity on the airfield. Works to upgrade the airfield have begun in conjunction with the RAAF’s scheduled runway maintenance program,” Dr Cock said.

“These works will see the runway upgraded to Code E status to allow for wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft carrying close to 400 passengers to fly in and out of Williamtown, opening our region to some huge and exciting international opportunities.

“In addition to the airfield upgrade, preliminary works have also commenced landside in preparation for the Newcastle Airport international passenger terminal. The first stage of work involves upgrading existing assets such as car parks.”

Newcastle Airport is on track to be international-ready by 2024 with both airfield and terminal works scheduled for completion early that year.

Over the next 20 years, the upgrade and expansion of the runway and terminal will strengthen the region with 850,000 additional visitors, over 4,000 new jobs, and approximately $12.7 billion in economic activity.

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