Thursday, February 24, 2011

Central Coast becomes official region

This heading may make you blink as it did me. The Central Coast not a region? 

A tweet from My Central Coast led me to this story from the Central Coast Express Advocate. 

It's official at last - the Central Coast is to be recognised as a separate region by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from July 1.

Gosford and Wyong councils and the Central Coast NSW Business Chamber have welcomed the decision after years of lobbying by the community.

The coast will be recognised as a “statistical area 4”, the largest type of region below state level.

“Being included as a separate region is a great win for the region and the last significant classification required to get regional recognition for the Central Coast,” business chamber president Ken Baker said.

“We’ve proudly believed that the Central Coast deserves a better go from government and getting the right ABS data sets in place will help support our campaigns in the future.”

Gosford Mayor Laurie Maher said: “This is a victory for common sense considering that the coast has a population larger than Canberra and is expected to grow significantly over the coming decades,” Cr Maher said.

Wyong Mayor Doug Eaton said the recognition would place the coast in a better position to support its growth and development.

Mr Baker said the recognition would get its first big test with the Australian 2011 Census due to be collected later this year.

For the benefit of readers who don't know Australia, the Central Coast lies between Sydney and Lake Macquarie and the Hunter Valley. So it's just to the south of the traditional New England or Northern NSW boundaries.

I have often spoken of the way that official structures and classifications have on-ground effects. Clearly, the Central Coast is and always has been a region in geographic terms. However, it has suffered greatly, as has the broader New England, from it's statistical treatment.

For ABS purposes, it has been treated as part of the Sydney Statistical Division. For many planning purposes, it has simply been added to Sydney. Indeed, the boundary of Metropolitan Sydney, the way that areas are treated for planning purposes, has been progressively pushed north to include the Lower Hunter. Not only does this ignore one region, the Central Coast, but it actually bifurcates a second, the Hunter.

So long as planning centres in Sydney, areas like the Central Coast or the Lower Hunter will be treated as outliers of the metro centre. That is why many in the Hunter want the the present Sydney city rail system broken up to create a Hunter Valley equivalent.

Many in the Central Coast had reservations about the creation of a new state in Northern NSW because they feared that it would lock them out, lock them further into Sydney. The reverse is true.

In reality, the links between the Hunter and Central Coast mean that with the creation of a New England state, the Sydney Government would be forced by the very existence of New England to look at the Central Coast in new ways. We have seen this already in other border areas. The position of the Central Coast would actually be greatly strengthened.    

No comments: