City in search of a centre

CREATING a suburb named ‘‘Lake Macquarie’’ can’t do any harm, and it might even do some good.

Lake Macquarie City Council has long lamented lacking a true civic centre, not surprising since it grew out of a shire dotted with farms, resorts and mines on the southern fringe of unmistakeably urban Newcastle.

But the days of Lake Macquarie being little brother are long gone. For years its population has outnumbered and outgrown that of Newcastle, and it still has plenty of room to grow even more.

Re-badging a portion of Speers Point – close to the council administrative centre – is largely symbolic, of course.

But the council insists it will have practical benefits, including enabling signs to be erected on the F3 freeway, creating a new Lake Macquarie postcode and making the location much easier to find on internet search engines and GPS systems. The council also hopes that the long-running problem of tourists becoming confused between Lake Macquarie and Port Macquarie will come to an end.

Criticism of the move centres mainly on suggestions that time and money spent on the change would have been better directed to tangible tasks, of which the council has many. The council has often complained in recent times of its poor budgetary position, and critics argue it should be focusing on bringing its costs into line with its income, not frittering resources on trivial matters.

And serial council critic, millionaire developer Jeff McCloy, has also asserted that the newly named suburb might well find itself under water at some point in the future if the council’s own sea-level projections prove correct.

These remarks aside, the great virtue of this initiative is its relatively low cost.

In the not-so-distant past the council had canvassed some much more expensive alternatives, including building a glamorous new administration centre at Glendale.

If a simple name-change can help rectify Lake Macquarie’s perceived identity problem, the small investment will be well worthwhile.

Cyclists at risk

ONE of the most obvious solutions to Newcastle’s increasing traffic congestion is cycling. On fine days, at least, many people could – if facilities were adequate – cycle to work instead of driving cars.

Not only would this cut traffic congestion, it would also help improve the fitness of those who were willing and able to cycle regularly.

At present, however, a number of obstacles prevent wider adoption of cycling as a serious mode of transport. As reports in today’s Herald show, the Hunter’s roads can be a risky environment for cyclists.

Many motorists treat cyclists with a dangerous contempt and most cyclists, it seems, will experience inexplicable hostility from car and truck drivers if they spend long enough on the road.

This culture needs to change – and cycle paths need to be made much safer – before cyclists will risk taking to the roads in serious numbers.

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