Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wednesday Forum: Re-imagining Newcastle

While this post will still appear with a Wednesday date, it is in fact coming up later because of other pressures.

Last Forum, Wednesday Forum: improving public transport, drew no comments. That happens.

This time I want to deal with a different issue, the best way of re-imagining Newcastle. 

To help you here, assume that there is suddenly a New England state. Newcastle as the biggest city, bigger still if we include the surrounding urban areas, suddenly has an opportunity to carve out a new and independent role free of previous constraints. What would you advise?

To further help you here, a few questions:

  1. As one of Lonely Planet's new top ten global cities, how would you promote Newcastle's role not just as a destination in its own right, but as entry point to New England?
  2. Should Newcastle aim to turn its airport into a promoted international airport? This has benefits, but there may also be environmental implications.
  3. Newcastle has its own gritty cultural tradition, one not well recognised outside the city. How would you promote this?
  4. There appear to be rivalries and tensions among Hunter Valley councils. How do you promote Newcastle in such a way as to benefit other areas?
  5. While Newcastle has its own business community, the city is in many ways a branch office economy. What might be done to encourage the creation of new Newcastle or Hunter headquartered businesses?
  6. What are the main impediments to be overcome if Newcastle is grow not just in economic but in life style terms?


Greg said...

Hi Jim,

I have been trying to think of a response to this post, but it is a tough one. Newcastle has all the essential elements of a truly interesting and great city, but is stuck in a 1950's time warp that it can't escape from.

Consider this. In 1950 Brisbane, Perth and Newcastle were similar in size. Brisbane had a metropolitan population of about 440,000 people, Perth 340,000 and Newcastle 300,000. Just 60 years on and Brisbane (1.9m) and Perth (1.6m)have powered ahead in size and relative importance. Newcastle (1/2 m) has languished and been left in their wake - still an "overgrown country town".

Newcastle's relative decline mirrors that of the entire Northern NSW compared to Qld and WA. Newcastle is northern NSW in microcosm.

How do Newcastle and Northern NSW break out of this rut? Short of self-government I really don't know.

I believe that self-government would of itself be a catalyst for change in the way others see us and the way we see ourselves. The tangible benefits would inevitably follow.

Jim Belshaw said...

I am sorry for the delay in responding, Greg. Interesting stats.

I agree with you re self-government. In the meantime, and as part of our push for self-government, we have to get people to focus on the needs of Northern NSW as a unit and in terms of individual areas. We can use the push for self-government as a way of doing this.

One might argue that this threatens our longer term objective. The more we get, the lower the demand for self-government. I don't see it this way. I just don't believe that Sydney can reconcile the conflicts involved in governing an entity that no longer makes any form of sense.

Re-imagining the North is hard. But in doing so, we achieve a number of things. We get New Englanders to again think of themselves as a unit. We force Sydney responses. And we start to lay down a platform - a set of ideas - that our own Government can implement.