Overwhelming support for Newcastle city revitalisation

2 December 2015

UrbanGrowth NSW and Newcastle City Council today released a summary of findings from the Revitalising Newcastle community engagement program. The findings show that people overwhelmingly support the revitalisation of Newcastle city centre.

“More than 75% of responses to a statistically-valid phone survey of Newcastle and Hunter residents favoured the so-called Harbour Entertainment City and Harbour Play City opportunities. These opportunities provide a balance of open space, public spaces and attractions, residential, retail and commercial development, and the revitalisation of Hunter Street,” UrbanGrowth NSW program director Michael Cassel said.

“People liked the potential to stimulate the local economy and create new destinations that attract people of all ages to the city centre, and they also made a range of suggestions about how these destinations could be improved,” Mr Cassel said.

“Between 82% and 86% of respondents to the more than 600 sample phone survey also supported the creation of a Civic Link between the harbour and civic precinct, the revitalisation of Hunter Street, and the creation of an entertainment precinct in the East End.”

While there was support for the creation of a dynamic destination at Newcastle Railway Station, feedback indicated that a regional produce hub or market was not the preferred use. An all-ages regional playspace was also not the preferred option for open space along the foreshore.

“People also wanted the unique heritage of the city, in particular the East End, to be maintained, and as a result, we will add a specific objective to our program to preserve and enhance heritage,” Mr Cassel said.

During August and September more than 2,500 people across Newcastle and the Hunter region completed surveys, more than 1,400 people engaged in 13 face-to-face community events, and participation through online and social media attracted more than 11,000 people via the website and more than 6,300 on social media.

The engagement program was delivered jointly by UrbanGrowth NSW and Newcastle City Council and was overseen by an independent advisor and a steering group comprising Council, UrbanGrowth NSW and Hunter Development Corporation.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the response to this engagement program signalled the community’s enthusiasm to be involved.

“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Council and UrbanGrowth NSW was a turning point for our community to be involved in decisions being made about our city. We have worked in partnership with UrbanGrowth NSW to ensure the engagement process was open, transparent and robust. The participation rates speak for themselves and the goal of capturing a broad range of community views has certainly been achieved.

"Based on my involvement in the steering group I understand that every piece of feedback, from letters to Post-It notes have been read and scrutinised – to the point that independent review showed 95% accuracy in recording people’s feedback."

More work will now be done to analyse feedback and, in partnership with Council, UrbanGrowth NSW will develop a planning proposal, including a concept plan, by early next year.

“We look forward to working with UrbanGrowth NSW to develop a concept plan that represents feedback provided during the engagement program and balances the range of needs and views we heard,” Councillor Nelmes said.

“What we’ve heard during this engagement program is that people want the city centre to be a thriving hub. There are funds available to make this a reality so we need to grab this opportunity with both hands.”

Mr Cassel said a full report on the community engagement program would be released next week.

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