OPINION: I have a dream: my vision for our future

IN her letter to the editor last week, Christine Prietto asked if there was a vision for Newcastle and how people could be part of shaping one.

She questions the worth of a vision confined to the central business district. So do I.

Although important, an agenda simply about the CBD sells our future short.

The federal Labor government recently funded two initiatives to bring together a vision for our city and region.

The first funds strategic infrastructure planning for Newcastle and the Lower Hunter, guided by important national strategies for cities, ports, freight and intergenerational change.

Its goal is a blueprint for a productive, sustainable and liveable Newcastle. The work is being undertaken by Hunter councils, Hunter Development Corporation and the NSW Department of Planning.

The second funds Infrastructure NSW and Hunter Regional Development Australia to develop the Hunter Infrastructure Plan in consultation with industry and the community.

I submitted this personal vision on invitation.

Our harbour embraces places of indigenous significance: Nobbys, remnant convict mines, Macquarie Pier, Fort Scratchley, the original convict dock and lumber yard, the Maritime Centre, Newcastle Museum and the industrial activities that underpin daily life.

What a wonderful opportunity for a unique tour on the Solar Sailor, heritage tram, and walking, to follow Newcastle’s history from our aboriginal roots to the present day, enjoying the marvels of ‘Coal River’ finally listed on the National Heritage Register.

Our CBD would have employment and activity anchors from east to west – a Landcom/GPT retail precinct with a Dendy theatre; continued Renew Newcastle vitality; the Civic legal precinct, a cultural heart based at the Museum, Civic Theatre and completed Art Gallery; a CBD Campus and creative enterprise hub based around TAFE Newcastle Art School.

The national John Olsen Gallery would occupy the once-more resplendent Newcastle Post Office, and the old museum site would host a new digital enterprise and digital media hub.

As an economic driver, our port must have a container terminal.

Our region and northern NSW becomes a food bowl corridor through the port to Asia. Similarly our manufacturing industry has great potential to import and export mining and clean energy-related equipment and other goods directly through Newcastle.

The global move to containerisation means container ports drive new supply chains, markets and infrastructure. A solar thermal tower at the port would provide clean energy, feeding excess into our world-leading smart grid.

Moving out, the area from the Newcastle Entertainment Centre at Broadmeadow to the Hunter Stadium at Lambton would be an Olympic-standard sport precinct supported by commercial fitness and accommodation outlets, to anchor Newcastle’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2030.

A new aquatic centre at Lambton Pool complements the facilities.

The former BHP administration area hosts a new convention centre attracting international conferences and expos.

Our CSIRO Energy Centre, University of Newcastle and HMRI continue to anchor our innovation future. The National Broadband Network leads our global competitiveness and small business embraces the digital revolution lifting productivity and profits.

A network of cycleways and walkways would connect Glenrock Reserve to the Fernleigh Tunnel, across to Blackbutt, on to the Hunter Wetlands, along the Hunter River, through Warabrook to Throsby Creek, around Newcastle Harbour and along the Bathers Way back to Glenrock linking to the Sydney coastal walk.

This could be one of the best pedestrian and cycle paths in Australia with environmental and indigenous tourist experiences enhancing this amazing adventure.

Two light rail networks follow major arteries to the John Hunter Hospital and to the university, linking all of the above park-and-ride enabled activity centres to the CBD and joining together along the completed inner city bypass.

A third network would link the CBD, the beaches and their suburbs to the Junction, Adamstown and Hamilton, reducing congestion and increasing CBD accessibility.

With integrated transport, every station is an interchange and light rail replaces heavy rail from Wickham station east to Newcastle station, redeveloped ‘Queen Victoria Building’ style, with an infill forecourt, becoming a grand piazza-style square.

Supporting our Commonwealth Games bid, high speed rail would need to be constructed between Sydney and Newcastle.

The inner city bypass, the M7 to F3 link, the F3 to Pacific Highway link and the Hunter Expressway link to the National Highway would all be complete, and Newcastle Airport would be a major transport hub.

And the winner is – everyone.

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