Thursday, February 17, 2011

Do you wish to comment on re-imagining Newcastle?

My post Discussion on re-imagining Newcastle continues has drawn some interesting additional comments, adding to those received earlier. In addition, I have received emails from Greg and others pointing to related stories in the Newcastle Herald.

I am going to leave the whole discussion open until next Monday when I will do a consolidation post for the whole series to provide a basis for further chat. In the meantime, please add your comments to Discussion on re-imagining Newcastle continues. Think of the whole thing as a kind of Delphi process. This is an iterative technique for establishing common positions among people separated by ideas and geography.


Greg said...

Hi Jim, great work here and interesting to see the perspectives of outsiders. Sometimes when you live in a place for a long time you miss the obvious.

My own vision for Newcastle is for a city emerging from the dark shadow of Sydney. I won't dwell on this point as you know that I believe that it has suffered badly from being the second city of NSW when it could have and should have been the fist city of New England.

The city needs to open up it's north. The suburbs of Stockton and Fern Bay sit on a peninsular isolated from the CBD and the rest of the city. While being just 700m from the CBD across the water, it is about a 20 km half hour trip to get there traveling west then east again via the industrial area on Kooragang island. It is bizarre that Stockton was probably more accessible before the Stockton bridge was built when the old punt operated from Wharf Road to Stockton. To open up the north to Stockton, the airport at Williamtown and north to Port Stephens we need a harbour crossing (either bridge or tunnel).

A harbour crossing would make the airport just a 10 minute trip to the CBD instead of a half hour trip. While on the airport, I believe that there is a strong case for making it the second NSW international airport. There are nearly 2 million people in the north of the state from Broken Bay who could be serviced by this airport. That would take an enormous pressure off Kingsford Smith and also relieve some congestion on the road and rail connections through Sydney.

Add a fast train service between Newcastle and Sydney and Newcastle Airport would be even more viable. By fast train I do not mean that it necessarily has to travel at 350km/hr. A service traveling at only 130km/hr would cut travel times between the cities in half to about 1 1/4 hours. That is hardly ground breaking for the 21st Century.

Newcastle also needs to be seen as the city of the north so it needs better road and rail connections with it's Hunter hinterland as well as regions to the north and west such as Dubbo, the Northern tablelands and the north coast.

Newcastle needs serious investment in public transport. Newcastle had an extensive tram network before the state government closed it down after the war. The last tram ran in Newcastle in June 1950. It also had suburban trains that ran to Belmont, Wallsend, Cessnock, Toronto and Dungog. Those lines are just memories. Newcastle buses cannot possibly fill the gap as a mass transit alternative nor can they help to rejuvenate a declining CBD.

The CBD also needs to become THE CBD again. The University is doing it's bit with it's plans to open a new city campus and student accommodation. HNE Health should also re-establish the RNH in the CBD of Newcastle. Government can contribute by locating departments in the CBD and businesses and retailers need to be attracted back. To do this we need an investment in new building stock and a relaxation of height and density restrictions in the CBD.

Newcastle also needs to capitalize on it's thriving arts and theatre scene. A new entertainment complex and precinct should be established in the CBD to attract more visiting performers and companies to the city. The city could promote itself by reviving the old Mattara festival in a bigger way with an emphasis on arts, entertainment and lifestyle.

Newcastle needs to start thinking big in order to capitalize on it's natural attractions, advantages and it's remarkable and intriguing history.

Jim Belshaw said...

We have done well in this discussion, Greg. And your comments here are great. I hope that we will get some more comments. Tomorrow I will print out all the comments and start preparing a post under the title a new vision for Newcastle.

Anonymous said...

"it's" means it is;
It's raining.
"its" means of it;
The city needs to open up its north.
Get the grammar right, and people may even think that Greg's idea of resuming huge amounts of land and property to build bridge/ tunnel approaches/ exits is something other than a lunatic follow on to the conglomeration of complete nutters who wanted to put a new international airport on Koorangang and turn Nobby's light house into a restaurant - anyone ever tried to drive along Nobby's breakwater in a gale???

Greg said...


Thanks for correcting my grammar. I'll try not offend you with such a grievous mistake again.

The rest of your thread was a bit of a rant, but I think that I get the gist. You think it is a silly idea.

Fair enough opinion and I can accept that you disagree. No doubt there were plenty of critics in the early 20th century who thought that building the world's largest steel arch bridge across Sydney harbour (and displacing thousands of residents in the process) was a lunatic idea for a city of fewer than one million and a nation recovering from the devastation of the Great War.

I guess it comes down to whether you can think big and have a vision for the next century or not.

Daniel H Burnham once said "“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”

Wise words.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Anon. I am trying to write up all the comment threads on different parts of this topic. You obviously know the scene. Care to respond on what you think should be done?