Change is in the city's air

PERHAPS it’s the approach of the local government election that is creating a sense of urgency for change in Newcastle.

Or it could be a growing realisation on the part of the Coalition government that it must get some runs on the board if it wants to hold the Hunter seats it unexpectedly won at the last state poll.

Either way, there’s a hum in the air.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel has resisted the invitation to refuse consent for the city’s proposed new court building, setting in train a cascade of events that will promote civic transformation.

Landcom, now partnering GPT in a redevelopment of the mall precinct, is pushing ahead with plans to reconstruct and refocus this vital area.

And optimistic rumours are flying, suggesting that funds might soon become available for the long-discussed relocation of parts of the University of Newcastle into the city. Newcastle City Council appears to have taken the hint, deciding this week to call tenders for the demolitions needed to prepare the project’s way.

The pent-up frustration of many Novocastrians at years of indecision and vacillation over difficult issues is finding expression in the ideas flowing freely from some of the candidates who are running for council.

Some are demanding that the question of installing CCTV cameras in the city be revisited, after having been dropped by the council.

Others are outspokenly campaigning for more financial accountability and a more lean, nimble civic administration.

Yet another lord mayoral candidate is floating a big plan to redesign traffic flows in the city, making King and Hunter Streets one-way in opposite directions, introducing angle-parking, widening footpaths and planting more trees.

Everybody, it seems, has a pet blueprint to fix the city, and suddenly, there’s a real sense that some of these plans might actually succeed.

Here’s hoping the impetus and the enthusiasm will outlast the election.

The Tarro deathtrap

IT must be distressing for the bereaved family of cyclist Neil Smith to know that the stretch of road on which he died had long been identified as needing attention.

The Tarro railway overpass has been dubbed a deathtrap by cycling groups who have raised their concerns with Roads and Maritime Services. That government department says it has already started work on a concept plan to make the road safer, but the plan will cost about $7million to implement.

The fatal accident has prompted the department to investigate cheaper interim measures, which may include warning signs or better lane marking.

That’s all well and good, but it seems clear from comments by experienced cyclists and cycling advocates that funds should have been found for such measures well before this.

It is too late for Mr Smith, but his family should be given the satisfaction of seeing his tragedy turned to account and the road improved.

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