Time flies when you’re having fun.
Perhaps that’s why this year has whizzed by in such a flash in Lake Macquarie.
It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of 2018 already, but, looking back, it’s heartening to see how much ground we’ve covered in the past 12 months.
Our city is going through a monumental shift – not just in terms of record volumes and value of development on the ground, but in the way we are seen by the outside world.
Lake Macquarie has always been known for its lake and the spectacular scenery surrounding it.
Our first inhabitants – the Awabakal people – took their name from the lake’s calm surface, and those pristine waters have been the subject of countless paintings, photos and happy memories in the many years since.
But, now more than ever, we are more than just a pretty picture on a postcard.
The strategic partnerships we have forged, the development we have approved and the focus we have placed on nurturing innovation in 2018 have seen Lake Macquarie get the recognition it deserves as a genuine contender for outside investment and funding.
This year we cut the ribbon on a new LoRaWAN network in Lake Macquarie – the first citywide network of its type in Australia.
The network connects smart, low power sensors and other devices to the internet, helping drive technological breakthroughs and improve quality of life in our city.
We’ve won a $900,000 federal grant to develop a Smart Beaches platform in conjunction with Northern Beaches Council and the University of Technology, Sydney, harnessing environmental sensors and smartphone apps to make our beaches safer and more user-friendly.
And we have successfully launched our greener three-bin service and a new state-of-the-art composting facility supporting it, closing the loop on even more of our city’s waste.
Taking bold steps such as these will help make Lake Macquarie a hotbed for innovation and a magnet for talent in years to come.
They will also help Lake Macquarie’s economy continue to transition away from traditional mining and manufacturing businesses.
In the past financial year the council invested a record $116.5 million in capital works, one-third of which was spent on our core business road and footpath resurfacing and upgrades.
A new $1 million skate park at Charlestown, playgrounds throughout the city, upgrades to the Hunter Sports Centre and construction of the $15 million Pasterfield Sports Complex at Cameron Park show the diversity of projects we’ve undertaken to make Lake Macquarie a more active and vibrant place for people of all ages.
We’ve continued to work hard to secure major commercial investment, resulting in major windfalls such as approval of a new $90 million retail precinct in Bennetts Green, including Bunnings, Spotlight and Anaconda.
That development alone will support more than 600 local jobs.
Our eyes have also been firmly set on a part of the City with even more potential – the North West Catalyst Area, set to be one of the Hunter Region’s main economic drivers over the next 20 years.
We’ve worked hard over the past 12 months and will continue to do so, championing the vast potential of this area to generate thousands of jobs and be home to major new residential and commercial precincts.
Our campaigning in this regard was recognised with the release earlier this year of the NSW Government’s Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan, which identified North West Lake Macquarie as a critical growth area in the region.
These are big-picture projects, and crucial for the city to thrive.
But equally important are the day-to-day services and facilities we provide and the local communities we support.
One of the most humbling parts of my job as mayor is meeting face-to-face with people from those communities, who are as passionate as me about Lake Mac.
Many of them work tirelessly as volunteers – in sporting groups, men’s sheds and myriad other organisations working for the good of the city.
The dedicated groups of volunteers who recently undertook tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of improvements to local sports facilities and other community infrastructure as part of the CityServe initiative supported by the council are perfect examples.
Their selflessness sets a lead we all should follow – helping our neighbours and our community to make Lake Macquarie a better place for everyone.
That is what we must focus on as a council.