Like many refugees, Mark Davie has a lot to offer.
The man in charge of Syrian billionaire Ghassan Aboud’s Australian hotel chain fled the Sydney rat race last year and set up home in glorious Merewether.
His eldest daughter moved to the coastal haven at the end of 2016, and Mark wasn’t far behind.
“My daughter moved up with our grandson,” he tells Topics.
“We came up to visit them one day and ended up buying a house the next day and went back to Sydney and put our house on the market.
“And my other daughter, she’s just done the same thing; she’s moved up here with her husband.
“Now we’re all here in Merewether. We love it.”
Mark, who made his second Newcastle purchase just before Christmas when he shelled out about $15 million on the council’s Roundhouse building, says he bought the house in Merewether after running into its builder, Phil Bush.
“I guess after being used to Sydney prices, we came up here that day and we saw that property on the market and fortunately just happened to run into Phil, who happened to be looking after the garden.
“He took us for a bit of an inspection through the property and we walked upstairs and looked at the views and looked at the proximity to the beach and rang the agent and said, ‘We’ll take it.’
“So, a very quick decision, but we never looked back. I look at the ease of living here versus what it’s like living in Sydney.”
Mark, who is CEO of the Crystalbrook Collection luxury hotel chain, spends a couple of days a month at the company’s head office in Sydney and plenty of time in Far North Queensland, where CC is building several hotels in Cairns and Port Douglas.
Crystalbrook plans to turn the love-it-or-hate-it Brutalist council building into a five-star hotel, but he hinted his boss’s Newcastle shopping spree may not be over.
“In terms of further investments, you’ve seen what we did up in Cairns. We didn’t stop at one hotel. We ended up investing half a billion dollars in Cairns.
“Once we move into a town, we like to grow with the town.”
Speaking of immigrants, Mark’s arrival from Sydney got Topics thinking about the brain drain from the global, liveable city that is Newcastle to lesser locales.
We looked at the stats, and they did not lie.
According to Census data for the five years leading up to 2016, by far the most popular change of address for people from the Newcastle council area was to Lake Macquarie and Maitland. No shame in that.
Newcastle had a net migration loss of 1187 with LMCC, 933 with Maitland and 271 with Cessnock.
By the far the biggest influx of people came from the Central Coast LGA (net migration 560), which is a little surprising given the Mariners won the A-League in 2013.
Imagine if they hadn’t. We’d be overrun by now.
The MidCoast council area (467) and Port Macquarie (385) also lost valuable warm bodies to Newcastle.
And Mark is not alone in fleeing Sydney.
The Census showed Newcastle had positive net migration with all but the four poshest parts of the harbour city.
City of Sydney (-161) was one of the few lucky enough to enjoy a net gain of Novocastrians, along with Woollahra (-25), Inner West (-29) and Parramatta (-33). OK, so Parramatta’s not that posh.
We gained 243 from Northern Beaches, 76 from the Shire, 80 from Penrith and dribs and drabs from more than a dozen other Sydney LGAs.
Newcastle also gained a net 4840 people from overseas in those five years.
Trump would build a wall.
Taking The Drop
The drums are beating (only softly at the moment) over plans to hold a music festival in King Edward Park during Surfest.
Topics has heard from one Hill resident keen to find out more about The Drop festival on Saturday, March 16, the day before the Surfest finale.
The Foreshore will host Live At The Foreshore (aimed at baby boomers, according to Herald music critic Josh Leeson) the same day, which is presumably why KEP has been pressed into service.
Josh couldn’t remember another music festival in the park, other than Carols by Candlelight.