Newcastle Now, council to thrash out light rail business relief fund

Newcastle Now will meet with Newcastle City Council on Monday to try to secure funds for a light rail business relief fund it announced two weeks ago.

The Newcastle Herald reported last month that Newcastle Now had invited businesses to lodge expressions of interest in gaining up to $5000 from the fund even though it had not received council approval.

Newcastle Now chairman Edward Duc said at the time that the business improvement association wanted to access money which the council had collected from inner-city ratepayers to help the business community.

Council chief executive officer Jeremy Bath said he was “bewildered” by Newcastle Now’s announcement, which followed a public falling out between the business group’s former executive manager, Michael Neilson, and lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

Mr Neilson’s replacement, Richard Christian, said on Wednesday that he was due to meet Mr Bath on Monday to thrash out the issue.

Meanwhile, Newcastle Now will run two free “Business Disruption Workshops” over the next week as part of its light-rail response, which includes 34 hours of free consultation with a business adviser.

Mental health advocate and ABC presenter Craig Hamilton, restaurateur Neil Slater and Estabar cafe owner Bec Bowie will speak about how to foster resilience at the first workshop, Building a Safe Harbour, at Harbourview Function Centre on Thursday morning.

The second, Critical Support for Businesses in Crisis, will be held on Thursday, July 19, at Noah's on the Beach to provide practical financial and legal information about topics such as when to get a lawyer involved in a crisis and how to manage finances when your business is under stress.

“We want to help businesses get through the disruption caused by the light rail construction and we think it’s important to address people’s wellbeing as well as providing essential information,” Mr Christian said.

Registration is required for both workshops.