NSW deputy premier John Barilaro announces $5m kick-start to Williamtown Special Activation Precinct

TAKE OFF: Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro with Andrew Chapman, Aircraft Sustainment General Manager at BAE Systems Australia, in Williamtown on Wednesday. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
TAKE OFF: Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro with Andrew Chapman, Aircraft Sustainment General Manager at BAE Systems Australia, in Williamtown on Wednesday. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

The last time he was in Williamtown, NSW deputy premier John Barilaro was handed the controls of an excavator but on his return on Wednesday he had the opportunity to sit in something a little more high powered - a jet - as he announced the state government would put $5 million towards kick-starting the Hunter's Special Activation Precinct.

Following through on the Liberal Party's 2019 state election pledge to establish a SAP in the Hunter, Mr Barilaro announced at BAE Systems in Williamtown that the state government would begin creating a masterplan for the precinct that is hoped to "turbocharge the region's growth as a national and international defence and aerospace hub".

"Special Activation Precincts are master-planned precincts that will offer investors benefits such as streamlined planning approvals, government led infrastructure and studies, and a business concierge service," Mr Barilaro said.

"This is about attracting more money to regional NSW, creating job and career opportunities for locals and people who are keen to relocate, and cutting red and green tape to support job growth in the wake of COVID-19, bushfires and drought."

The Williamtown SAP will be the fifth in NSW, joining Parkes, Wagga Wagga, Moree and the Snowy Mountains. The five SAPs are part of a $1 billion state government project to attract new investment and create jobs in regions that have been identified as growth areas.

It is estimated that each precincts will create at least 15,000 jobs.

The $5m pledged for developing the Williamtown SAP masterplan, which is expected to take two years, comes from the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund.

Mr Barilaro said the money would be used for master planning and business case work which is expected to begin soon and would involve extensive consultation with the community, local councils, businesses and industries.

In developing a masterplan for the Williamtown SAP, the NSW Government will explore 10,000 hectares around Port Stephens, including Newcastle Airport and surrounds, and will build on the NSW Government's existing $11.79 million investment into the Astra Aerolab precinct through the Growing Local Economies Fund.

It was in May 2019 that Mr Barilaro used an excavator to turn the first sod at the Astra Aerolab site in Williamtown. The defence and aerospace technology park is expected to create 5500 jobs during construction, and will service and maintain Australian fighter jets based at Williamtown.