Newcastle City Council puts art gallery, light-rail expansion on NSW budget wish list

IN THE FRAME: Newcastle City Council has asked again for the state to fund a new regional art gallery.
IN THE FRAME: Newcastle City Council has asked again for the state to fund a new regional art gallery.

A Wickham ferry terminal, light rail expansion, a new art gallery and higher rate rebates for pensioners are on a Newcastle City Council wish list for next month’s state budget.

A lord mayoral minute expected to go before councillors next week details a range of “key projects” the council would like to see in the state budget after the Hunter was ignored in last week’s federal budget.

The state government has committed $650 million to its Revitalising Newcastle program, which includes the Wickham transport interchange and light-rail line.

The proposed council submission to treasurer Dominic Perrottet calls for the state to help rezone land to extend the 2.7-kilometre tram line. It suggests Broadmeadow as a destination for stage one of a larger network.

“We propose leading a working party to deliver on this vision with relevant state agencies … Keolis Downer and the Newcastle and Hunter communities,” lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes’ minute says.

The proposed submission says an extended tram network should include John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle University, McDonald Jones Stadium, Adamstown, Mayfield, Glendale, Bathers Way and Newcastle Airport.

The council wish list also includes a call to speed up a Transport for NSW feasibility study on the Lower Hunter freight rail corridor between Fassifern and Hexham and start a feasibility study into a Wickham ferry stop.

The council also revived its long-running campaign for the government to provide $26 million to redevelop Newcastle Art Gallery, a project overlooked 12 months ago.

“​While the Art Gallery of NSW received $244 million in last year’s budget for its extension, and the government announced a $100 million regional cultural fund, the Newcastle project is still getting nothing,” the minute says. 

“The City of Newcastle believes that, with a significant surplus more than likely to be announced, the 2018-19 budget presents a perfect opportunity to reinforce the government’s support for the arts by fully funding this important project.”

Other items on the wish list include increasing the $250 rate rebate for pensioners, which was set in 1989, and linking it to the consumer price index.

The $250 rebate on council rates is slightly higher than those offered in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, where it is referred to as a cost-of-living payment. Western Australia offers a $750 rebate.

The lord mayoral minute mirrors NSW Labor policy in seeking a 25 per cent affordable housing mandate on government-owned land and 15 per cent on privately owned land. It also calls for more funding for sports facilities and for improving disability access to parks and playgrounds.

Cr Nelmes told the Newcastle Herald that state government support for expanding Newcastle’s airport and container terminal would help secure the city’s economic future in coming decades.

“Infrastructure and service delivery across the City of Newcastle must be strategically aligned to deliver a future that positions Newcastle in a globally competitive economy,” she said.

“Key to this vision will be significant collaboration from the NSW Government, who have an opportunity to continue to support Newcastle’s emergence as one of Australia’s most dynamic and vibrant metropolitan cities.

“There are a number of opportunities where the delivery of key, large-scale infrastructure should be expedited to keep pace with Newcastle’s rapid renewal.”

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