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Defining Greater Newcastle and its future

Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan

Defining Greater Newcastle and its future

Greater Newcastle is one of NSW’s key Global Gateway Cities. Understanding current and future population, employment and other key drivers of travel demand allow us to plan effectively for its future and meet changing needs.


Global Gateway City

Greater Newcastle has a catchment of over 1 million people. It has strong connections within NSW to Sydney, Central Coast, North Coast, New England North West and Central West and Orana regions. Greater Newcastle has growing national and international connections through its airport and port.

Greater Newcastle is transitioning from its heavy industrial past to an urbanised, service, creative and knowledge based city. It benefits from its access to international markets via the port and airport, strong health and education precincts and economic development opportunities through tourism, growth of specialised manufacturing and small-medium enterprises, defence facilities and a growing knowledge industry base.

There are further urban renewal opportunities to be realised. Transformative infrastructure projects including light rail and the introduction of frequent bus and ferry connections as well as opportunities to support and increase liveability through more sustainable travel behaviour will ensure its success into the future.


Five local government areas

The Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan and Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036 have been prepared for the five local government areas (LGAs) of Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Newcastle and Port Stephens.

The Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036 provides targeted strategies and actions for areas within the metro frame and metro core only. The metro frame is an arc of cities and towns from southern Lake Macquarie to Cessnock, Branxton, Maitland and Raymond Terrace. The metro core is the area east of the Pacific Motorway and bounded by the harbour, Pacific Ocean and the northern shores of Lake Macquarie. These areas are shown in Figure 7.

Population growth and change

Home to the Awabakal, Worimi, Wonnarua, Biripi and Geawegal peoples, the Hunter region, including Greater Newcastle, is the most populous in regional NSW. By 2056 it is projected to have almost twice the population of the next largest regions of Illawarra-Shoalhaven and the Central Coast.

Most of the Hunter region’s current population is concentrated in Greater Newcastle. Greater Newcastle is growing rapidly and is projected to grow from around 575,000 people to around 760,000 by 2056, making it home to more people than the state of Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory. Within Greater Newcastle, most people live within the Lake Macquarie (35%) and Newcastle (29%) LGAs.

As a Global Gateway City, Greater Newcastle serves a much wider catchment area that includes over one million people and has strong connections to Sydney, Central Coast, North Coast, New England North West and Central West and Orana. The future transport system for Greater Newcastle will need to support both its growing and changing population as well as its expanding regional influence.


New growth areas

The distribution of residential population growth across Greater Newcastle has a considerable impact on travel patterns and demand. The Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036 identifies a goal of delivering 40% greenfield and 60% infill housing across Greater Newcastle by 2036. Infill housing development typically increases demand on existing services, whereas greenfield development requires planning for delivery of new services and infrastructure.

Population within the metro heart and surrounding metro core is expected to increase over the next forty years. However, there are strong short term growth forecasts for population in greenfield development sites in the metro frame and infill throughout the metro area. Focussing on urban renewal and managing greenfield development will mean transport service planning can be better aligned to respond to population change. DPE will continue to monitor housing and provide up to date forecasts regularly through the Urban Development Program.

Population density

The highest population density in Greater Newcastle is within 5-10km of Newcastle city centre, the metro core, at around 19 people per hectare. This area is expected to continue to grow and densify into the future.

Age distribution

The population of NSW is ageing as a greater proportion of the population move into older age groups (65 years and over) and older people are living longer. The population of Greater Newcastle is no exception. Furthermore, the trend is exacerbated by older people moving into the region from other areas, attracted to the coastal and regional lifestyle in retirement. Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie together have some of the highest number of residents aged 70 years and over in regional NSW.

The distribution of the population by age is important for planning the types of services needed within an area, including transport.

Figure 10 shows the current age distribution across Greater Newcastle, highlighting the age group with the highest number of people in each area. Greater Newcastle has higher proportions of people aged 60 years and over located in the coastal areas around Nelson Bay, Stockton and southern Lake Macquarie.

Higher proportions of working aged people (aged 30-59 years) are located around the metro core, concentrated north of Lake Macquarie, and in the areas north and south of Maitland. The youngest populations are located further west around Cessnock and north to Raymond Terrace. Greater Newcastle’s metro core has a notably higher proportion of people aged between 20-29 years, reflecting the presence of the University of Newcastle.

Between 2016-2056 the older population is expected to increase in areas towards Nelson Bay and west of Lake Macquarie (Figure 10), along with the area between Newcastle airport and Nelson Bay and west of Lake Macquarie. The number of younger people is projected to increase most in the western area of Greater Newcastle as families move into the new growth areas as they are released.


Older people’s access to services

An ageing population holds specific challenges for the provision of transport services and infrastructure. The provision of transport services and infrastructure can impact on how easily older people can get around their local communities, undertake regular physical activity, stay connected to friends and family and get involved in community, civic and cultural recreational activities. This helps older people maintain their health and quality of life as maintaining good physical and mental health in later life supports independence and wellbeing.

With older age comes the increased likelihood of needing access to health services and assistance with day to day tasks, including mobility. Access to health care often requires travel beyond local areas for specialist services or hospital-based care. Driving and using public transport can become more difficult for people beyond the age of 75. Personalised, assisted transport services, such as Community Transport, allow older people to maintain their independence while accessing the services they need. As the number of people in these older age groups is projected to rise across Greater Newcastle over the next two decades, there will be an increased demand for assisted transport service options across the region.


Access to jobs

The residential location of people of working age, between 30 and 59 years, is influenced by the availability and cost of housing and distance to employment. Changes in preferences for housing and household composition also play a part in where people live. In Greater Newcastle people of working age are more highly concentrated in the metro core, close to where most jobs are concentrated. Urban renewal in the metro core will likely attract greater numbers of working-age people and families to live in higher density housing. Highly efficient and reliable transport connections between the region’s dispersed residential areas and Greater Newcastle’s employment areas is a priority for working age people.


Young people’s access to education and training

There is a greater proportion of young people in the centres of Greater Newcastle’s outer frame where families can enjoy being located by the water, bush or both. Access to schools for children in small, more isolated towns can be a challenge, most often being met by local bus services. However, a greater challenge for young people living in these outer areas is accessing out of school hours activities and sports, and as they transition from school, travelling to training opportunities and university campuses located in larger centres particularly if they do not hold a driver’s licence or have access to a vehicle. The introduction of flexible transport options offers the potential to assist this sector of the population.


Employment growth and change

Greater Newcastle currently has around 275,000 jobs. Most jobs are located in Newcastle (43%) and Lake Macquarie (27%) LGAs. There is a corridor of employment along the New England Highway towards Maitland (see Figure 11).

Job density

Newcastle city centre has the greatest employment density at over 57 jobs per hectare, more than double the next highest area of Hamilton/Broadmeadow at 22 jobs per hectare. Large employment precincts are also located at Cardiff-Glendale, Charlestown, Kotara, John Hunter and Callaghan and a corridor of employment that stretches along the New England Highway towards Maitland.


Structural change

A range of industries have a strong presence within Greater Newcastle. Over the next 40 years, the greatest employment growth is expected to come from knowledge intensive industries. These are services and businesses that provide professional knowledge. Examples include engineers and people employed in legal and accountancy services. The location of this type of employment tends to be clustered together in Central Business Districts (CBDS) or in special precincts.

Health and education employment is also expected to increase steadily. It is likely that this employment will be clustered around Greater Newcastle’s hospital and education precincts, including the university and TAFE campuses as well as schools. The population serving industry will also continue to grow. These jobs are generally spread throughout a region and include occupations such as real estate agents, hairdressers and retail and hospitality workers.

Figure 12 shows the changing location of the predominant industry across Greater Newcastle. Growth in knowledge intensive industries is expected in the metro core as well as around Maitland and Newcastle Airport. Population serving employment will replace industrial employment as the largest employment category around the west of Lake Macquarie and Raymond Terrace.

Other major drivers of transport demand

Greater Newcastle has a number of major trip attractors, influencing travel movement.



The John Hunter Hospital is the principal referral hospital for the Hunter and northern NSW. The John Hunter Health Precinct contains a range of medical and allied health services as well as private hospital services and one of two forensic services within NSW. The Precinct provides education, training and medical research facilities through a partnership between the Local Health District, University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).

Other key metropolitan health precincts include East Maitland (planned), Calvary Mater Waratah, Warners Bay, Belmont, Lingard Merewether, Toronto, Gateshead, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Raymond Terrace, Charlestown and Morisset.



Schools and tertiary education contributes to a large number of trips each day. The University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus is a significant trip attractor for students and employees across Greater Newcastle and the broader region. NSW TAFE Hunter Institute has nine campuses within Greater Newcastle. The region’s tertiary institutes are expanding and increasing with the NeW Space campus and Japan’s Nihon University choosing Greater Newcastle for its first campus in Australia.



Throughout Greater Newcastle there are major shopping centres and retail precincts that generate trips by shoppers. Key destinations include Charlestown Square, Westfield Kotara and Homemaker Centre, Stockland Green Hills, Stockland Glendale as well as those within centres such as Newcastle city centre, Maitland, Cardiff, Toronto and Cessnock.


Recreation and tourism

Greater Newcastle benefits from its natural resources and strong heritage. Local residents and visitors are attracted to its coastline and beaches, national parks and open spaces. The world renowned Hunter Valley vineyards and wineries and major sporting venues are also strong trip generators. These tourism movements are supported by Newcastle Airport, the Newcastle Cruise Terminal as well as the region’s road and rail networks.

Six principles for Future Transport

The Future Transport 2056 Strategy is focused on six key principles for the future of mobility in the state, which together aim to positively impact the economy, communities and environment of NSW.

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