Newcastle's knockers

THE worst thing about living in Newcastle is not that it’s dirty, polluted, ugly, devoid of outdoor recreational opportunities and in a lousy natural setting. No. The worse thing about living in Newcastle is that the knockers, the whingers and the perennial protestors have more influence than their numbers warrant, and once again they’re on centre stage. You’ll have read yesterday that a national survey of cities’ liveability by the Property Council of Australia rated Newcastle seventh of Australia’s 10 biggest cities, and so poor were Newcastle’s scores that it is more a measure of unliveability.

Who but a housebound grizzler could give Newcastle the lowest score of 10 cities for attractive natural environment? The city with its magnificent beaches, working harbour and beautiful harbourfront, the treasured Blackbutt Reserve, positioned between the sparkling water of Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie, was said by survey respondents to fall short in terms of attractive natural environment! Newcastle came 10th and Wollongong – yes, Wollongong – came fourth!

It wasn’t in only that respect that Newcastle was at the bottom of the list behind Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Wollongong. And these survey respondents leave no doubt about their cloistered idiocy when they put Newcastle as the second worst city for ‘‘recreational outdoor environments’’! They did a sterling job, too, on the question of whether the city has a good public transport service – Newcastle with its trains and government buses is eighth on the list and Wollongong, which does not have a government bus service, is fourth!

How can a survey find so many negative, small-minded people? Well, it appears that these negative, small-minded Novocastrians found the survey. A senior research partner with Auspoll, David Stolper, tells me the people surveyed were found in registers of people who make themselves available to answer survey questions. The registers are, he explains, a kind of wholesale service for researchers. So Auspoll invited the people listed on the registers as living in the city being assessed, and 515 people set about badmouthing Newcastle.

But are you sure, I asked Mr Stolper, that they live in Newcastle? I smell sour grapes, and after assuring me that living in Newcastle was a condition of inclusion Mr Stolper sent me the postcodes that were used to identify those residents. Maitland! Aberglasslyn! Belmont, Marks Point, Valentine, Eleebana, Warners Bay! Charlestown! Gateshead, Mount Hutton, Whitebridge, Windale! While most postcodes did identify Novocastrians these and others certainly did not, and so there is indeed a big serve of sour grapes in the Newcastle survey results.

But how could the surveyors find so many of Newcastle’s resident knockers? Easy. The wholesale registers find their eager survey respondents by advertising on late-night television and in other media for people who want to earn money by sharing their opinions, and you can imagine Newcastle’s perennial condemners leaping to accept such an invitation. For giving their opinions about Newcastle they were paid, Mr Stolper tells me, $2, which puts their small-mindedness and the value of their opinion into perspective.

How do you rate Newcastle for liveability? What is good and what is not?

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