THE Newcastle Herald editorial ‘Happy new year in a time of rapid change’ (Herald, 1/1) correctly makes the statement that the region’s fortunes are determined to some degree “by our interactions with Canberra and Macquarie Street”.
When different groups speak on behalf of our region delivering mixed or confusing messages, it is easy for our political masters to divert much-needed government investment to other regions which speak with a united voice. We do need to agree as a region on how to attract investment.
However, I challenge the apparent suggestion that we need a new “single organisation able to articulate a vision for the Hunter as a whole”. There is no doubt we can do better at presenting a united front, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Existing “peak bodies” such as the Hunter Business Chamber, the Hunter Chapter of the Property Council of Australia and HunterNet have a track record of articulating a vision for the region as a whole and not just for their membership base. This has resulted in government adoption of strategies proposed for the Newcastle revitalisation and also the NSW Government Defence and Industry Strategy.
This is a model of collaboration which can be adapted across any number of “peak bodies” in the Hunter to draw on their respective expertise and ensure they come together to speak with one voice. Establishing yet another “peak body” runs the risk of cannibalising existing member-based bodies, which make a valuable contribution to thought leadership and advocating a vision for the future. Many businesses and community organisations are active members of a number of these bodies.
Instead we have a unique opportunity to develop a model where the existing bodies contribute their expertise and resources to speak as one voice. As one voice we have the opportunity to hold government to account for delivering on their promises and ensuring our region receives the attention and funding it rightly deserves.
With federal and state elections due in 2019, now is the time to have such a structure in place to ensure we deliver clear and consistent messaging on what we expect as a region.
Richard Anicich, director, Hunter Business Chamber, Newcastle
Who’s paying for water
JEREMY Bath, chief executive of Newcastle City Council, outlines council’s costs for maintaining and improving our sports grounds and facilities (Letters, 9/1). He also says council covers the cost of all utility charges for water, gas and electricity use.
Someone at council has made a massive mistake; Stockton Parks and Ovals committee received a water utilities bill for $29,054. That covers both Lynn and Corroba ovals.
The sporting bodies who use these grounds are: Little As, junior and senior soccer, junior and senior cricket and junior and senior rugby league. A bill like this will cripple these clubs and most will fold. It’s vital for Stockton to provide sport for our young. So, who’s got it wrong; the CEO, or someone in council who sends out accounts?
Ron Hancock, president, Stockton and Northern Districts Cricket Club
Barking up wrong tree
I LET the remark go through to the keeper, when Ray Dinneen (Letters, 30/12/17) implied it was council's fault the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) was closed on December 21. Remarks from Jan Caine (Letters, 8/1) do warrant attention. The VIC is not staffed by, nor financially supported by council since 2015. It is staffed by a volunteer not-for-profit, Newcastle Maritime Museum Society, also custodian of Newcastle's rich and significant maritime heritage.
Don't get me wrong here, the VIC is a bit of an advantage for the Museum Society in that it gets some people through the door who are prepared to view the exhibitions. Using the Newcastle Railway Station as a VIC would be a wonderful thing, particularly if parking was provided. I wish you well with finding the funding for the staff, the facilities upkeep, utilities costs. Council found they could not support a VIC and closed its operation in Hunter Street years ago. It is a little naive to say council is responsible for every little thing in our city. People should find out what is needed and pitch in and get it done, as the Maritime Museum has.
Bill Storer, Charlestown
Be thankful for fields
WHAT do you get for your council fees? A hell of a lot more than what you pay for. My favourite sport is council bashing when they make stupid decisions. On the subject of council fees for grounds and facilities, I will back up any council doing this.
There are tens of millions of dollars spent on the maintenance and upgrading of sporting facilities every year. This is ratepayers’ money. In the Lake Macquarie City area alone there are over 100 sporting facilities that have to be maintained. I have been involved in maintaining fields and it is no small job. About 12 months ago, a man at the Northern NSW Soccer Federation said it's time clubs stopped running to councils for handouts. He is right, although there is also a lot of smaller sports who need support. This is the ratepayers’ money being spent so you and your kids have decent sporting field to play on. Probably 50 per cent of ratepayers don't even use these facilities, so give thanks to these ratepayers and councils for providing them. What I suggest Newcastle City Council does with the ground where the original complaint came from is to stop all maintenance for 12 months.
Melville Brauer, Gateshead
Trouble with transport
I CAN understand developers "cashing in on greater height limits" (‘Units boom goes west’, Herald 10/1) but what perceived developer benefits flow from the Wickham transport interchange? What public transport benefits are there?
The old scenario was that you alighted at Wickham or you could stay on the train and were at Civic or Newcastle station in 2-4 minutes. Bus users could alight at The Store stop or stay on and alight at one of 10 more stops as far as the East End (the real one, not the bizarrely named mall redevelopment).
Now you alight at Wickham interchange, 100 metres from the demolished station, and, along with bus users forced off at the bus interchange, you will have to wait for a slow moving tram every 10 minutes or so.
Is that an inducement to buy a unit at the so-called "new CBD"? Is there really a causal link between revitalisation of the West End and the new transport arrangements? I suggest only if you're a carpetbagger or are seduced by government and council spin.