THE HERALD'S OPINION: Premier Berejiklian visits Newcastle to talk up the future

Premier Gladys Berejiklian answering questions at the Wickham Interchange on Tuesday.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian answering questions at the Wickham Interchange on Tuesday.

IT’S an unwritten law of politics in regional areas that no leader worth their salt turns up without having a funding announcement of some sort to make.

After all, it’s not that often that premiers find their way into tiger country, and so they usually try to make it worth their while.

With Premier Gladys Berejiklian in town, Tuesday did turn out to be jackpot day for the Hunter, with the Newcastle Knights securing $10 million to go towards their rugby league centre of excellence to be built at Broadmeadow.

But the funny thing was, it wasn’t the premier who announced it. That job was left to Sport Minister Stuart Ayres, with the $10 million doled out to the Knights being the biggest amount received by the five clubs who shared in the spoils. Unofficially, the Newcastle Herald was told that the centre of excellence details weren’t finalised until mid-afternoon, making it too late for the premier to unveil the Knights’ good fortune. We realise there is controversy over sports funding at the moment, thanks to the government’s $2.5-billion stadium building plan, but it seems something of a missed opportunity for the premier to come all the way to Newcastle on the day her government is giving $10 million to the Knights, and to not say anything about it either at her interchange press conference or at the lunch.

Regardless, however, sports fans will thank the government for its vote of support in the Knights, as will the club itself.

As it happens, the premier did have one funding announcement to make, but it was not until she had departed Newcastle for Williamtown that we learned about it: a $50,000 extension of the “STEMship” pre-employment program – STEM being science, technology, engineering and maths – that was launched in the Hunter in August 2016. Ms Berejiklian said the funding would ensure ensure “a continued pipeline of skilled workers” for the defence industry.

Of course the the Herald acknowledges that the Coalition state government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in Newcastle at the moment. On that, Ms Berejiklian says she “couldn’t be more pleased” with the revitalisation plans, which meant that “businesses are champing at the bit to have their offices to set up space here”.

And that, in the end, will be the test. Apartment blocks are one thing, but the inner city needs to be a central business district, and not just a central residential district, if Newcastle is to properly thrive.

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