SINCE the release of the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy 2012, there have been mixed reports in the media about its merits.
For that reason I write to clarify some of the speculation and apparent confusion from some members in the community about the strategy.
The Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy is the vehicle that the NSW Government will use to transform and revitalise Newcastle’s city centre.
The proposed strategy will boost economic activity, making Newcastle a more vibrant place for locals and visitors.
The importance of the strategy cannot be understated, as it heralds an exciting beginning of a new chapter for Newcastle and a promising future for our city.
It includes a range of initiatives: an implementation plan to help drive urban renewal and improved links between Newcastle’s city centre and waterfront.
It includes economic and physical improvements as well as new planning controls to encourage a more dynamic city centre capable of accommodating the 12,000 additional residents and 10,000 extra workers expected by 2036.
The strategy will ensure that the opportunities for investment and job growth in Newcastle will increase significantly and create the certainty which has been sorely missed by small business owners, residents and investors under Labor representation in Newcastle.
The comprehensive strategy outlines a vision for the East end of Newcastle to become a lively mixed retail, leisure, entertainment and residential precinct with a revitalised Hunter Street Mall. Civic’s transformation will include improvements to Wheeler Place, which will strengthen the precinct as Newcastle’s main civic, educational and justice hub, including the University of Newcastle’s move to Auckland Street.
Employment land will be protected in the West end and physical improvements promoted around Birdwood Park and Cottage Creek to help position the area as the city’s new commercial hub.
To facilitate this major revitalisation and to connect this great city seamlessly to the harbour, rail services separating the city centre and the waterfront will be replaced by bus services from Wickham.
Eight new North-South links will be created over the rail corridor, connecting the city centre to the waterfront and providing a stronger basis for renewal initiatives.
As part of the strategy, a new retail and commercial bus/rail interchange will be built at Wickham, west of Stewart Avenue.
Importantly, bus services will be coordinated closely with the rail timetable from the new interchange. This will ensure smooth journeys to the city centre and more seamless travel to additional destinations around the coastline.
I emphasise that the current rail corridor will be retained in public hands.
Community, industry and government buy-in to the strategy will be critical to its success.
As such, I encourage those interested in having their say about the strategy to attend one of two community information sessions designed to provide more information to the community and to have their questions answered.
There will be two sessions held on Wednesday, February 20 at Newcastle City Hall.
For those interested in attending registration is essential prior to the day.
The NSW Coalition Government is committed to the revitalisation of Newcastle as evidenced by Urban Growth NSW’s financial commitment to the East End, development of the legal precinct, the commitment of funds to the University’s inner city campus and funds associated with the Urban Renewal Strategy.
I am proud to say that this Government, in the two years since being elected, has contributed the most significant financial commitment that Newcastle has seen in decades.
There will always be advantages and disadvantages to change as significant as this, and I do understand that point.
However, this is about a broad, multi-faceted renewal strategy for Newcastle that reinforces its status as a vital Australian regional centre.
For too long Labor ignored the Hunter, and as the first Liberal Member for Newcastle, I am not prepared to sit on my hands and watch growth and development opportunities for Newcastle pass by. Since the announcement, I have continued to meet with residents in my office, at events, at street stalls and door knocking.
Based on the feedback I have received, I believe there is overwhelming community support for the strategy and that is why I will ensure it is implemented.
Tim Owen is the state Liberal member for Newcastle