Rounding Up has been engaged by Cessnock City Council (CCC) to develop a Hunter Valley Agribusiness Cluster Action Plan (HVACAP), to accelerate new ideas for a region that has historically been reliant on mining for local employment and investment.

Duration: Three months

Proponent: Cessnock City Council


  • The Hunter Valley Agribusiness Cluster Action Plan – a short to medium-term strategic framework to identify opportunities for growth, stimulate activity and provide fast results for the local population.

Background: Rounding Up has been engaged by CCC to develop a plan to accelerate new ideas for a region that has historically been reliant on mining for local employment and investment.

The development of the Action Plan will help the Council enhance the focus on agriculture, food, wine and tourism to provide economic development and stimulus to the region.

With its stunning landscape including State Forests, fertile pastures, world class wineries and close proximity to Sydney (just 120km north) and Newcastle (40km west), there are many positive attributes attractive to those within a few hours’ drive that are currently struggling under interstate and international travel restrictions resulting from COVID-19.

As specialists in the agriculture and food sector, Rounding Up’s work will include a review of existing agri-business activities and deliver a short to medium-term strategic framework to identify opportunities for growth, stimulate activity and provide fast results for the local population of 54,000.

The Action Plan’s long-term goals are to assist in securing future economic diversity, sustainability and social equity and improve the overall amenity, resilience and liveability of the Cessnock Local Government Area.

Cessnock Cattle

To achieve this, the HVACAP will focus on four key elements:

showcasing authentic and differentiated Hunter Valley produce locally

raising the profile of the local sector nationally

building capacity of the sector to create and service markets

increasing capability of businesses in digital and marketing along with distribution and logistics.

The CCC and Rounding Up will convene a voluntary Steering Group of key agricultural and other stakeholders for the development of the Action Plan.

Hunter Valley signage

A list of emerging challenges and opportunities has already been drafted and the project requires input from local people familiar with everything there is to offer in the region.

Current Impediments
Demand for Agricultural Products
Defining customers within the LGA, the HV and Australia

  • Food distribution & service providers including restaurants, hotels, event companies, wholesalers, etc
  • Local retailers, Singleton Army Base, Cessnock Correctional Complex, local mines, etc
  • Potential market shortages & consumer gaps within & outside of LGA
  • Fragmented customer base
  • Limited coordination
  • Commercial sensitivities
  • Lack of a regional approach
Supply of Agricultural Products
Understanding supply capability and potential growth from within the LGA and the HV

  • Existing scale & reliability of supply base including the functionality of the supply chains
  • Food sector demand serviced from outside of LGA – How does the LGA become self-sustaining?
  • Up-scaling possibilities of existing enterprises & potential for new sectors
  • Agricultural producer groups as a facilitator for growth
  • Sub-scale operations
  • Cost competitiveness
  • Lack of diversity of produce
  • Current procurement policies
Infrastructure & Supply Chain
Land, infrastructure and investment requirements

  • Existing land allocation, utilisation & zoning within LGA including the possibilities for expansion
  • Manufacturing (plant & equipment) capabilities & opportunities for value-add processing within LGA eg. olives
  • Considered synergies across food sectors & possibilities to aggregate opportunities to secure state or national grants
  • Opportunities in road, rail and air freight to accelerate speed to market whilst reducing the carbon footprint
  • Planning has limited agricultural focus, more natural resource management (NRM)
  • Limited food manufacturing capacity, more mining services
  • Infrastructure concentrated in north-east end of LGA
Resource Capability
Local human capital and development needs

  • Existing employer demands in relation to talent – capabilities, skill sets & potential
  • Profile of the current LGA talent pool & gaps
  • Future picture of capabilities & mechanisms to motivate & develop talent eg. STEM?
  • Historical context – mining vs agriculture and viticulture
  • Perception of agriculture as a sector & career path
  • School curriculum offerings
Pokolbin Cessnock

The table above is by no means exhaustive. We are seeking further input to ensure the HVACAP serves the interests of the entire community of the Cessnock LGA.

Some questions for you to consider:

What in your view are the key challenges and opportunities for the Cessnock LGA in the context of the HVACAP?

  • What are the 3-4 key initiatives in an agricultural and food context that can build momentum behind the objectives of the HVACAP?
  • What do you believe to be the enabling factors essential to delivering these initiatives?
  • Would you be prepared to participate in the Steering Group for the project?

Do you know of others in the community that have something to offer in the ways of ideas?

We would also love to hear from other LGAs who have moved away from traditional industry activities towards a new frontier, be that a more agricultural/tourism/environmental focus for their region.

There is also an online survey to help us capture everything that the Hunter Valley has to offer.

tell us your thoughts on the Hunter valley
Cessnock produce

For further information please contact Rounding Up directly:

Tony Eyres, Principal: 0429 069 072 or


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