Posts Tagged “Newcastle”

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When British artist Jamiroquai’s hit single Virtual Insanity took off in the late ’90s, it was considered groundbreaking, mostly because of the music video, which featured cutting edge cinematography. Very much of its time, the video showed moving floors and unpredictable wandering furniture. The video won several awards, including MTV’s Video of the Year for 1997.

The catchy chorus of the song was an earworm: “The future’s made of virtual insanity.”

While the video and song might be dated, the lyrics are prophetic. We now have options to experience virtual reality everywhere, in ways more insane, experiential and positive than Jamiroquai could have ever predicted.

Today you can pop into Newcastle’s East End, step into VRXP on Watt Street, don a headset and try to walk a narrow plank off a skyscraper. If you slip, you plummet to the sidewalk below and feel your stomach launch into your throat. If that’s too dramatic, you can just use the hand-held controls to paint colourful nonsense in every hue and brush stroke imaginable, although some artists paint virtual landscapes that you can also explore if you prefer.

Virtual reality (better known as VR) has arrived full force in Newcastle. It’s here to entertain, teach, train, and heal.

Academics, tech nerds, graphic artists, film makers, product designers and even an ex-debt collector all want a piece of the fantasy pie, which can look pretty realistic.

Businesses and institutions are on board to test it out and work with it, including places like University of Newcastle, Newcastle Museum, 2Real (a VR company focused on new home environments) and ctrlspace (a Newcastle consultancy and development studio focused on immersive technologies including VR, augmented reality and mixed reality.

Virtual reality is applicable to a huge array of situations and environments.

Virtual Exercise
Rohan O’Reilly is a neurogenesist from Smart Bodies, Smarter Minds, a virtual rehabilitation centre in Mayfield. O’Reilly says his centre offers alternatives for “medical orphans,” or people who have tried everything else and are looking for a new avenues.

Many successful VR stories happen at the centre. One specific example involves men in their late teens to early 20s. O’Reilly describes it as a “not uncommon scenario” when men at this age develop depressive symptoms and withdraw from life. They start eating badly and stop exercising.

“They come to a point where they know they need to exercise, but they hate the concept of exercise, and this is the VR magic,” he says. “If they’re into gaming, which a lot of these men are, we ask what they’re into. We match their VR experience to what they’re used to in gaming, so they’ve automatically got a source of reward.”

Now, he says, they are no longer sitting around moving only their thumbs; they have to put physical effort into playing a game to get the reward. For example, the centre has what looks like an exercise bike, but when you put on the gear, you are inside a tank and another tank is trying to shoot you. You have to push the pedals around to make the tank move – patients exert huge amounts of physical energy.

“If you said to them get on that exercise bike and go 45 minutes, that’s not going to happen, or if it does, they won’t come back. This [virtual reality] quickly turns them around, so they’re getting rewarded to burn physical energy,” O’Reilly says. “The difference is you’re not telling them what to do, you’re offering them a system to engage in that has these systemic health benefits.”

Fortunately, you don’t need to be unhealthy and depressed to enjoy and appreciate virtual reality.

Dementia Assistance
To get in on the virtual magic, see for yourself at no cost during NAIDOC week (July 8-15), celebrating Aboriginal culture. Head down to Newcastle Foreshore to experience the Dual Names project, a Newcastle City Council initiative. Along with physical interactive signs that explain the pre-settlement names of places, visitors with YouTube on their mobile phones can access a visual experience of what the land and people might have been like in the pre-settlement time. Local artists and linguistic experts assisted on the project. Users can listen to stories told in Awabakal or Worimi while it is also written in English below on the screen. Users standing at a physical location can get a virtual reality experience of what it looked like long ago.

Virtual Perspective are the creators behind the Dual Names concept. The Warners Bay consultancy creates bespoke virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and visualisation software. The team became a business in 2016 after meeting at a co-working space. They are a finalist for the Excellence in Innovation category for Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards, but they remain humble with their big ideas, operating out of a modest office.

The Virtual Perspective team is three experts: Ivan Demidov (customer relationship management systems and IT), Tim Davidson (visualisation) and Sam Parker (communicator and project manager).

“Ivan’s the mad scientist and Tim’s the artist,” Parker says.

While some of their commercial projects remain under wraps, they’ve also been hard at work with Hunter New England Health, creating empathy training for nurses and doctors who are treating patients with dementia.

By seeing the perspective of a dementia patient, nurses will better understand ways to care for them. This includes making sure the room is set up in the best possible way.

In the simulation, machines turn into monsters and wires start moving. Shadows on the walls are menacing human shapes. The carpet can look like liquid and the user’s challenge is to get to the bathroom.

“If there’s not enough light and the curtains are closed, it’s hard to get out of bed. It’s hard to do something simple like go to the bathroom,” Parker says.

“Statistics show that if the room is set up improperly, it can lead to falls. If a person with dementia falls the likelihood of them passing away is quite high,” Demidov says.

Virtual Perspective are 70 per cent finished with their HNEH project. They are also working with an RTO that does fire warden training. This simulation teaches soon-to-be fire wardens how to evacuate the building. The training assessment package is graded, and users can do things right or wrong and learn from their mistakes without any lives lost.

“They call it kinesthetic learning, learn by doing,” Demidov says.

“The thing is virtual and augmented reality and new technology in general allows the users to step into new places that they never saw possible, allowing people to do things that are dangerous, to be in scenarios that would be extremely expensive to set up. It’s experiential; it isn’t just audio and visual,” Davidson says. “You can read a textbook on ancient Rome, or you can go and visit.”

Grandmas to Gamers
Like Parker, Demidov and Davidson, VRXP founder Andy Gallagher is excited and passionate about virtual reality and all the creative potential that comes with it.

The self-described “super nerd” features old school video and arcade games in his studio because “we’ve got to show the young ones where it all comes from.”

Gallagher is a new parent to an eight month old. He studied digital art at ANU in Canberra and went on to work in video. He relocated to Newcastle five years ago, and he said VRXP was the first public facing VR space in Australia, the first bricks and mortar building. It opened in October of 2016.

To determine the best simulations to offer people, Gallagher and his wife held virtual reality parties out of their own home, testing different experiences with families and friends.

“We had to choose the best options for people experiencing VR for the first time; we were the Guinea pigs to choose the best and most fitting experience for the general public. If things were too complicated it would just get dropped; we stuck with our favourites,” Gallagher says of their decision process.

Like the paint and plank immersions mentioned above, all the customer’s experiences happen within the confines of an enclosed spacious area, giving the user “room scale” virtual reality, a chance to move about freely without getting disoriented.

He said lots of kids prefer the job simulator option, a cartoon- styled job experience, where the user performs everyday tasks.

“Some of the kids are completionists, absolutely ‘I need to complete the job’ and other kids are just photocopying donuts to make a donut stack that goes from the floor to the ceiling,” Gallagher says.

His customers include kids as young as 10 and people in their 60s. They currently employ four other employees, and when he’s not running VRXP, Gallagher puts his creative skills to work in other ways.

Gallagher’s full time job is creating VR films for a variety of clients ranging the University of Newcastle to Yan Coal. He specialises in fully immersive 360 degree cinema from preproduction through to shooting to postproduction. This is a cinematography that allows the viewer to see their surroundings in every possible direction.

“The bad thing about 360 degrees cinema it has such a bad stigma, it’s really blocky and you can’t make out much detail, but the camera system we invested in can give you a sense of depth,” he says. “The benefit is, you feel like you’re literally there; it’s up to the filmmaker to tell the story.”

He’s also working with the heritage archeological company RPS. The employees are finding spots from 1800s Newcastle on the new light rail corridor. They’ll ring him up if they’ve found something interesting that the workers want to demolish and schedule an immediate filming time. After he films it they’ll have the raw footage forever, and it’s up to them whether they want with it.

“It’s a part of capturing the find,” he says.

These are just a projects he’s pursuing while his studio dazzles Novocastrians.

“There’s always something that I’m totally immersed in,” he says.

The Unreal Deal
Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Girgis is the co-owner and managing director of Unreal VR in Charleston, which opened in April of last year.

“It’s something you can’t really understand until you try,” he says of VR. “Someone said something like, it was not what I expected, but it was what I wanted it to be.”

The business is a family affair, with his cousin Matt Thomas co-owning the business with him. His father is also a director.

“Matt was the CEO at the Collection House up in Brisbane, and he retired and was looking to do something fun and different, and this just kinda happened,” Girgis says.

Girgis has a product design background, and says they are now up to 12 employees including himself and his family. They offer virtual reality for ages six and up, and at the beginning of this year they expanded their studio space to accommodate everyone.

It’s not just headsets either.

“We’ve also got some flight simulators; we’ve got chairs that are full motion chairs so you can sit in them and fly a fighter jet, or also (experience) V8 supercars in Bathurst, so you can race any car on any track. It’s surprisingly good,” he says. “I’ve had some of the pit crew come down when we had the V8s on. I’ve had a couple people who use them for training. (It’s) less petrol and less expensive when you crash.”

They also have pilots as customers.

“All (the pilots’) simulators are just front projected, so you can’t look at your wings. If you’re exiting a hanger, you just have to guess how far your wings are. On (our VR) you can lean out the side and look back,” Girgis says. “I’ve been getting the FA team in from the RAAF Base, we’ve been getting them coming in and dogfighting each other.”

Previously he was working with a creative director at the Uni named Jeff Julian. Julian was mentouring Girgis, and they were making lots of things together. Through discussions with him, Girgis started looking into virtual reality.

Along with running the business, he’s established a monthly VR meetup where they can meet other interesting people in the field.

“(We’ve got) heaps of stuff is going on; Matt is a networking guy pulling in people from around the place. We’ve met everyone local.” he says.

Girgis regularly collaborates with people. He’s been working on some of Newcastle’s West End buildings in product design. He’s also working with the Hunter Valley Gardens on a VR tourism project.

What excites him most is starting up something new and being on the “bleeding edge of technology”.

“It’s something I’ve always chased, and now, with Unreal VR and the other ongoing projects, it’s a fulltime job,” he says. “Starting a business from scratch – there was a lot I didn’t have a clue about, and it’s been a good journey.”

Reflecting on past speculations about virtual reality is interesting. Pop culture hasn’t always been optimistic about future technologies. If you read “Virtual Insanity”’s lyrics, you’ll see that Jamiroquai was incredibly skeptical about virtual reality and future technologies, and plenty of Sci-Fi movies out there send warning messages of technology’s dangers. But perhaps they’re all wrong, at least at this stage.

So many more people and initiatives are launching into the experiential space; and a growing number of Novocastrians have their own spin on the power and potential of virtual reality. As VR continues to revolutionise how we work, play and learn, you can either watch from the sidelines, or suit up and jump in.

Source: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5492752/appeal-of-unreal-virtual-reality-takes-hold-in-the-hunter/

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Two leading academics from the University of Newcastle are among the 38 beneficiaries in the latest round of the Australian Government’s Priming Grants, aimed at building international relationships to commercialise ground-breaking research.

The grants will facilitate Professor Christopher Grof to further his work in medicinal cannabis and Dr Adjanie Patabendige to explore pharmaceuticals designed to combat the effects of stroke.

Aimed at supporting researchers and small-to-medium enterprises, Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator Michaelia Cash, said Priming Grants showed how fostering industry-led innovation created commercial benefits and inspired job growth.

“These Priming Grants are designed to empower researchers and businesses to work with overseas experts to commercialise their projects.

“This means more opportunities for Australians to grow their ideas by opening doors to foreign markets, which contributes positively to Australia’s economy and job market,” she said.

Professor Grof will collaborate with Dutch company Bedrocan to investigate the development of a novel strains of medical cannabis to export to a world market estimated to be worth $56 billion by 2025.

Dr Patabendige, an affiliate of the Hunter Medical Research Institute, will work with Pharmidex Ltd in the UK and develop pharmaceutical agents that could reduce swelling within the skull after stroke.

Liberal Senator for New South Wales, the Hon Arthur Sinodinos, said the grants would allow the locals driving important projects to travel overseas and develop partnerships to take their ideas to market.

“Since 2016–17, the Australian Government has provided 114 Priming Grants worth approximately $800,000 and I’m glad local researchers are benefitting from this new round,” Senator Sinodinos said.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) works with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to deliver the Priming Grants under the Australian Government’s Global Connections Fund (GCF).

Source: https://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured-news/newcastle-innovators-awarded-grants-to-go-global

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A collective of ex-service officials are hoping to establish a one-stop shop at Wallsend to house the variety of services on offer to past and present members of the Australian Defence Force.

The proposal comes at a time when many ex-service organisations are looking to get more younger personnel involved in their work.

Among talks are the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) Veterans’ Association, Newcastle Vietnam Veterans and Wallsend RSL Sub-Branch.

The centre has been discussed previously, but has recently gained momentum and a meeting will be held on June 7 to establish a list of interested parties. The centre could be open to emergency service workers too.

“We’re finding that the younger veterans, from after Vietnam on, there’s no tendency to join the RSL,” Stephen Finney OAM said.

“There’s quite a number involved, but we’re finding a lot of them don’t know the services that are out there for them. What we want to do is organise this separate entity, where them and their families are quite welcome to just come in, have a cup of tea and catch up with somebody. Have all the services available there and get it to be run by some of the young veterans.”

Mr Finney, 70, is an Australian Army veteran who has been helping ex-services for over 40 years. He is a life member of the TPI Association, as well as vice-president of the City of Newcastle RSL Sub Branch, Vietnam Vets, and secretary of the TPI.

He says the need for a centre is paramount and centralising services will strengthen support by increasing availability and accessibility.

“There’s been more Afghanistan veterans commit suicide than there was killed in Afghanistan,” he said.

“There’s a lot of services there for them to access, but they need to know where to go … we want to set this up to help them and assist them in any way that we can.”

Mr Finney received an Order of Australia medal in 2008 for services to the veteran community. It followed the work of his father, who got the same award in 1986.

“The wealth of knowledge I’ve got, I want to give it to one of these younger guys and let them carry on.”

The centre could also host consults of the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), as well as legal, financial and health services.

Mr Finney says the Wallsend site, the TPI building on Cowper Street owned by Newcastle City Council, is a more central Hunter location than the DVA’s Auckland Street premises in Newcastle.

“Where we want to put the drop-in centre, it’s on a main artery, we’d put some big signs up there and people could just call in. Find out what’s available for them.”

 

Source: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5430820/veterans-drop-in-hub-at-wallsend-proposed-by-ex-service-groups/?cs=12

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EACH week, the Weathertex manufacturing plant at Heatherbrae sends up to four double-size containers full of its hardwood-based wall-cladding products by semi-trailer to Port Botany.

Executive chairman Paul Michael says the company, which exports about 20 per cent of its product, would love to ship its containers out of Newcastle, and is supporting the Port of Newcastle’s push to have a container terminal established on the former steelworks site.

About 10 kilometres away, the giant Tomago Aluminium smelter brings in about 1.1 million tonnes of its main raw material, alumina, through the Port of Newcastle each year.

About 60,000 tonnes of aluminium – or about 10 per cent of its output – heads the other way out past Nobbys as bulk cargo.

But most of Tomago’s output, or about 500,000 tonnes a year, is exported through Botany, leaving the smelter on freight trains at the rate of about 400 containers a week.

Tomago chief executive Matt Howell says the company is “doing the sums” on what a Newcastle container terminal would do for the smelter, saying “we can see the sense and logic” in the proposal.

“The Hunter has the industrial presence to support a container terminal,” Mr Howell said. “Obviously there are no concrete plans as yet but we like the idea.”

With a Newcastle container terminal back on the political agenda, Weathertex and Tomago are just two of the Hunter businesses who see benefits in shipping containers out of Newcastle.

Mr Michael says as well as a saving in trucking costs, growing congestion made planning truck movements in and out of Sydney was becoming increasingly difficult.

The Port of Newcastle has highlighted transport costs and congestion in recent documents, including a submission to the NSW government’s draft freight and ports plan, which closed for consultation in March.

The NSW opposition is supporting the Newcastle push, with Labor leader Luke Foley saying the secret container fee imposed on the port during its privatisation was stopping it from developing a container terminal.

The fee would add about $150 a container to Newcastle’s costs.

It meant “a wide swathe of the state from the Hunter and the Hawkesbury to New England and the mid-North Coast will be paying more to import and export their goods”.

“The Berejiklian government’s decision to prevent Newcastle from competing with Port Botany means imposing high transport costs on businesses for 98 years,” Mr Foley said, referring to the length of the Newcastle lease.

Dubbing the fee a “port rort”, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said Hunter businesses had put the cost of road-hauling a container to Sydney at about $1500.

“This includes fuel, maintenance, vehicle booking fees, surcharges and labour,” Mr Crakanthorp said. “The tolls alone for travelling north from Botany are $68.19 one way. These costs would be much reduced, or avoided altogether, if a container terminal was developed in Newcastle.”

After a tour of the Weathertex plant, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said it was a “manufacturing marvel” that would benefit from a Newcastle container terminal.

Mr Michael said that after 20 years under the existing ownership, the plant had lifted output from 1.2 million square metres a year to two million square metres.

It had been running around the clock on two 12-hour shifts a day and was about to add a third shift, meaning another 15 or so jobs on top of a workforce of about 100.

The plant had capacity to run four shifts a day.

Mr Michael said the plant, built in 1939, was the only one of its kind left operating in the world.

It still made small amounts of its original product, masonite interior panelling, but its main output was Weathertex, made for external use in various styles.”

Masonite and Weathertex are both made of hardwood pulp, formed into shape using high pressure steam and hydraulic presses.

Masonite is named after William H. Mason, who patented what became known as the Mason process in America in 1924.

 

Source: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5402664/what-could-a-newcastle-container-terminal-mean-for-these-local-industries/

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POWER company AGL has committed to building a 252 megawatt gas-fired power station somewhere “near Newcastle” as part of its plan for life after Liddell shuts at Muswellbrook in 2022.

Chief executive Andy Vesey will be at an AGL facility at Tomago on Friday to publicly announce the decision, which was released late yesterday to the stock exchange.

Although AGL is yet to formally commit to a site, the Newcastle Herald understands that the company is looking at a shortlist of three possible sites within a few kilometres of each other, in and around Tomago.

Macquarie Generation, which AGL purchased from the NSW government for $1.5 billion in 2014, gained approval for a similarly sized gas-fired power station at Tomago in 2003.

The approval may have lapsed, but that plant had a proposed first stage of 260 megawatts.

It was aimed at easing power shortages at the time caused by a rapid uptake of air-conditioners.

Although the new plant will not fully replace Liddell, which can generate 2000 megawatts, AGL is promoting it as part of a broader generation plan submitted to the federal government and the Australian Energy Market Operator in December.

“AGL is committed to supporting the orderly transition of Australia’s electricity generation capacity to modern, clean and reliable energy supply,” Mr Vesey said.

“That’s why we gave seven years notice of when we intend to close Liddell … and we are pleased to commit today to build the gas power station near Newcastle.”

Mr Vesey said the power station would be built near AGL’s Tomago gas facility, off Old Punt Road, which was approved by the NSW government in 2012. It and an AGL substation are close to Tomago Aluminium.

He said AGL had now committed to the first stage of its NSW generation plan, which included a 100-megawatt upgrade of Bayswater power station, a solar off-take to provide 300 megawatts, a “demand response” program that would encourage customers to use the equivalent of 20 megawatts less power, and the Tomago gas plant.

He said they were still looking at stage two, which included another 500 megawatts of gas. With all of the stage one elements in place, Mr Vesey said there was enough power to “address the capacity shortfall that may occur as a result of Liddell closing”.

“We are optimistic that the National Energy Guarantee will provide sufficient policy certainty to enable market participants such as AGL to invest with even greater confidence in cleaner, more reliable and more affordable energy generation.”

“Electricity generation is undergoing an increasingly rapid transition to lower-cost, clean renewable energy and storage technologies.”

 

Source: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5366930/agl-to-build-400-million-gas-fired-power-station-near-newcastle/

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Incorporated in 1992, HunterNet is a network of manufacturing, engineering and specialist services companies located in the Hunter and Central Coast Regions.

Formed as a not for profit co-operative, the organisation involves more than 200 companies.

Of course it all started on a much smaller scale in 1991, when 14 member companies agreed on the co-operative structure. There had been a decrease in ship building activity, activity at the BHP steelworks and a recognition that companies needed to diversify if they were going to survive in the region. HunterNet was formed around one idea – “the power of many”.

Watch the story of this Hunter-based organisation.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5320678/newcastle-business-2020-watch-the-story-of-the-hunternet/

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THANKS, in the main, to the bad behaviour of a few smarties, and buoyed by the negative publicity at the ICAC, there was a time not so long ago when nobody wanted to be known as a property developer.

But as the Newcastle Herald has argued before, property developers are the people who build our homes, our offices, our industrial workplaces. Their contribution to our economy is essential, especially at a time like now, where Newcastle is going through a once-in-a-lifetime urban overhaul which – despite the understandable angst it is causing those caught in its midst – should set up the CBD for the next 40 years or more.

At a Property Council of Australia lunch at City Hall on Friday, Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and a Colliers International representative, Peter Macadam, spoke about the opportunities and the challenges facing the Newcastle CBD and its property market.

By any measure, the city is experiencing a building boom. Construction cranes are dotting the skyline in unprecedented numbers. If the city hasn’t changed its shape already, it will certainly have a different look and feel in the west end if the redevelopment of the Store site results in the sort of 90-metre tower block – or even two 90-metre buildings – that Cr Nelmes was championing on Friday. The Store site has the potential to be the biggest development ever seen in the CBD, and with a mixture of commercial development on its lower floors, and apartments in its reach to the sky, it will add to the CBD’s resident population, and enhance its business base.

But it’s the ratio between the two – and the degree to which residential development is seemingly outpacing commercial construction – that has some in the property industry concerned.

As Cr Nelmes remarked on Friday, we need to maintain a certain density of commercial development in the city if Newcastle is to have a CBD in anything but name. Despite the plethora of cranes, developers say it’s very hard to make purely non-residential developments stack up in the city. Land prices and the competition that Newcastle faces in attracting new employers – having lost many regional branch offices in recent decades – are just two of the reasons why.

Even so, there is no doubting we have achieved much in recent years. The job now is to attract more big employers, companies whose presence would add to Newcastle’s cache as the state’s second city.

 

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5289466/attracting-investment-to-our-revitalised-city/?cs=308

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The Newcastle Permanent is marking 115 years in business. To the uninitiated, give us a snapshot of how it began?

Newcastle Permanent began in 1903 when a group of hardworking people who couldn’t get a home loan from the banks—because they weren’t wealthy—created a cooperative building society. They put their savings together to help everyone in the cooperative access a home loan and eventually everyone did. Fast forward 115 years and this is still the ethos of what we do today – helping people buy their own home.

The biggest milestones for the bank to date?

We now have more than $10 billion in assets and last financial year our loan growth exceeded that of the major banks. This asset portfolio makes us the largest customer-owned financial institution in NSW and the second-largest in Australia.

How many members do you have and what shape is the business in?

We have more than 320,000 customers predominantly in northern and central west NSW with strong growth in Sydney. We are the financially strongest customer-owned banking institution in Australia in terms of net assets.

The toughest moments for the building society in the past decade?

A stand out is the Global Financial Crisis. While Australia weathered the GFC storm relatively well, our government cooperated with an international banking regulatory framework to provide further protections for the global banking industry. This resulted in significant regulatory reform and oversight for Australian financial services operators. Add to this the need to respond to rapidly changing customer preferences for digital banking and it has certainly been an interesting decade.

And biggest highlight?

Reaching $10 billion in assets had been such an achievement, and for a business based right here in the Hunter!

The Royal Commission into Misconduct into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has started and the big four are in the firing line. Will Newcastle Permanent make a submission?

It’s only early days, but at this stage is does not appear that we’ll be asked to participate in the Royal Commission.

Will the findings of the commission, due in 2018, affect your operations?

The Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission are quite broad and inquire into banking, superannuation, and the financial services industry. At the moment it is not really possible to predict what the outcomes and timings of the Royal Commission’s recommendations will be. However, it’s reasonable to expect there’ll be changes that will affect the entire industry, including Newcastle Permanent.

How can the Perm compete with the big four?

Our business model is different because we’re customer-owned. We don’t distribute profits to shareholders (because we don’t have shareholders), but instead reinvest our profits into the business to benefit our customers and their communities by keeping our loan and deposit rates very competitive.

What is the Perm doing via its Charitable Foundation that has a real impact?

This year the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation is also celebrating a milestone, marking 15 years of supporting our community. In this time the Foundation has provided more than $17.5 million to more than 420 life-changing and community initiatives.

Why is there nostalgia for the Perm in the Hunter?

The fact that we are often called “the Perm” says a lot! I think it’s the simple fact that we’ve always been here. Our head office is in the CBD, we employ almost 1,000 staff, we’re active in supporting our community, and at some stage of their life most Novocastrians have had a bank account with us. We’re intrinsically tied to the memories and lives of Novocastrians.

The Perm has had memorable ad campaigns, but did you expect the Sunshine Over My Shoulder song, created by local business The Proverbials, to become so loved?

We knew the 2012 ad campaign was special; majestically showcasing our region and how lucky we are that we can serve our region. But we never thought in our wildest dreams that the song would resonate so well and become a wedding song!

You worked at one of the big four before the Perm. How do the two differ?

At a big four all your work is devoted to lining the pockets of shareholders. At Newcastle Permanent, we’re all about people. Our mission statement is we are “Here for good” and that means for our customers, our people, the community, and the long term. This was a pleasant culture change coming from a big four where the community wasn’t even a consideration!

What innovation is ahead for the Perm?

Our customers are rapidly shifting their preferences to online banking. I think the last time our industry saw such a shake-up was when computers became the norm more than 30 years ago. We’re working towards a time where our customers, if they wish, will not need to visit a branch to do any of their banking—and that day isn’t too far away.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5247429/a-permanent-fixture/

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NEWCASTLE could become Australia’s answer to Nashville if Mick Starkey and the city’s tourism chiefs can bring their dream for the city’s nightlife to reality.

Mr Starkey, the operator of the Stag & Hunter in Mayfield, is pushing a bold plan to bring together the pieces of the city’s music scene into a unified attraction that can drive tourism into the city.

Rather than focusing entirely on offering acts places to play, Mr Starkey said he wanted to make the city a place for musicians to develop, live, record and prosper – in turn boosting the economy. His vision has garnered backing from the Newcastle Tourism Industry Group.

Chairman Gus Maher said making the city a cradle of creativity had broad appeal. “Both young and more mature travellers participate in the arts, which live music typifies,” Mr Maher said.

“They will stay overnight, eat, drink and spend in local venues – all of which contributes to economic development and jobs.”

Mr Starkey pointed to storied music cities like the country music capital and New Orleans as examples where “people travel the world to go there”, saying many of the raw materials already exist in the city.

He said he was hopeful the NTIG backing would help the idea spread. “There’s many spokes in this wheel and they can be the group to bring it together,” he said.

“We’ve got some amazing talent that isn’t being seen,” he said. “There’s all these ancillary industries too, we’ve got a number of studios that are doing amazing things.”

“Whilst it currently exists on a smaller scale, I want us to be recognised internationally and not only draw people from Newcastle, Sydney and NSW but from around the world.”

Mr Starkey said he wanted to form a working group and lobby MPs to create a new story around the city’s nightlife that would attract visitors. “For 10 years it’s been touted as a bloodbath,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily about trading hours, I think it’s about messaging, saying that we are a great and artistic area.”

While he conceded building the reputation would be a “slow-burn”, he said the benefits would branch out far beyond the music scene.

“People talk about how great Newcastle was in the ’80s and fostering these great bands … times have changed but we want to encourage that,” he said.

“If collectively we are marketed in a way for people who come to see live music and original music, there’s going to be benefits to that.”

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5203408/push-to-make-newcastle-australias-answer-to-nashville/

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Newcastle business owners looking for compensation to reduce the impact of light rail construction have instead been offered advice and assistance from a service that’s already available to businesses across NSW.

It was NSW Small Business Commissioner Robyn Hobbs’ main offer of help to more than 120 business people she addressed in Newcastle on Wednesday at an emotionally-charged meeting that ended with shouting from the floor. Ms Hobbs also offered to be part of a new working group to help businesses in the coming months and said Newcastle traders that required mediation wouldn’t face the $750 fee that the final stage usually costs.

 But several CBD business owners spoke of the hardship that they and their neighbours had faced since construction had closed large sections of Hunter Street. They called for better access, compensation and a greater effort to draw people back into the city.

Paul Murphy, who owns Churchills Carpet Court, argued that the state government should make low-interest loans or grants available to businesses, similar to what was offered in the wake of the 1989 earthquake. Traffic engineer Ron Brown said the difficulties people currently faced driving into the city was “a big obstacle”.

Ms Hobbs said the situation in Sydney, where the government was granting rent relief to businesses in the light rail construction zone because of delays, was different from the Hunter’s situation.

While she was “not ruling out” advocating for a grant, loan or compensation program for Newcastle businesses, she cautioned that extensive investigations would have to take place before she would approach NSW Treasury.

“I appreciate the fact that you believe you are going through a disrupted period in your lives – and you are,” she said. “One of the difficult things is you have to live through it.”

Ms Hobbs said business owners were entitled to four free consultations with Business Connect, a support service available across NSW that can help sort out cash-flow problems, give social media advice, provide mediation and contact landlords on behalf of business owners.

Late in the meeting when Ms Hobbs was referring to the expected benefits light rail would bring to the city, an audience member yelled: “if we’re still here”.

Another attendee followed: “Newcastle businesses will be doing great when it’s all done, but they’ll be different businesses”.

Hunter Development Corporation CEO and Revitalising Newcastle project manager Michael Cassel also took questions and gave an update on the progress of the light rail project.

Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the issue of assistance for businesses was “unresolved and something we are going to have to work on”.

Mr Hawes and executive manager of business advocacy group Newcastle Now Michael Neilson – whose groups organised the meeting at the suggestion of Ms Hobbs’ office – both said the key to getting through the difficult period was working together and “looking forward, not looking back”.

In a statement after the meeting, Mr Hawes said “there was a lot of emotion in the room” and business owners had delivered a clear message.

Call for access, not more advertising

If you ask Bernie Hockings, easing the pain of light rail construction for city businesses isn’t about getting the job done quicker – it’s about doing it “better”.

Mr Hockings, who owns Metro Cycles, was one of several frustrated business owners who made their feelings clear to NSW Small Business Commissioner Robyn Hobbs at a meeting on Wednesday. His comments came after Revitalising Newcastle program director Michael Cassel assured the gathering that the job was being completed as quickly as possible.

Mr Hockings dismissed suggestions from the crowd that loans or grants should be available to affected businesses – he said improving access to businesses should be the top priority.

“I don’t want more advertising, I want access. Do it better, not faster,” he said. “If you paid me to get out of my lease and out of the city, I would.”

He told the Herald he had been hesitant to speak up because when he had in the past, internet trolls targeted his business’ Facebook page.

 

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5186506/if-were-still-here-newcastle-traders-tell-small-business-commissioner-of-plight/

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The man in charge of rolling out Newcastle’s new bus network says it will be a “quantum step up” for commuters in the city.

Mark Dunlop took over from Keolis Downer Hunter chief executive Campbell Mason in December after 33 years in South Australia’s public transport system.

On Sunday, he will take the wheel as Keolis Downer’s Newcastle Transport launches an overhaul of bus routes and timetables six months after the state government privatised the network.

Mr Dunlop, who moved to Newcastle in September, said his team had drawn on customer and driver feedback, Opal data and the company’s Australian and international experience to devise the network.

“Overall, from what I’ve looked at this network, I’m very confident that the package overall is a quantum step up,” he said.

“The network here hasn’t changed since 2008, and, whilst I haven’t been in Newcastle for that long, but with any community the dynamics and geography and social parameters change over that time.

“Something that traditionally ran down the street in 1953 is going to change.

“Yes, will there be issues? Will there be people trying to work through it? It’s a big change. We understand that. We understand it can be daunting.”

Some commuters have complained about losing direct bus services to the CBD and other key destinations, such as shopping centres.

Mr Dunlop said the new network was based on routes feeding into “spines” of high-frequency services, which would require more transfers for some commuters.

“It’s all about high-frequency routes and feeding into those and giving more travel options. There are people who will have to change a bus, but that’s all been built in and timetabled.

“It’s not hop off a bus and wait 20 minutes.

“It’s all been timetabled to connect and you’re on a spine that’s with a 15-minute frequency.

“Our operations team and designers have worked hard to make sure that all meshes together.”

The company, which also runs bus networks in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, has drawn flak from Newcastle commuters and the government for underpaying drivers and cancelling services.

The Newcastle Herald reported this week that on-time running statistics for buses had deteriorated in the three months after Keolis Downer took over, a problem the company attributed to “Supercars, school formals and King Street congestion”.

Mr Dunlop would not disclose the firm’s targets for increased patronage on the new network but was confident the timetables had been “appropriately timed to real conditions”.

“I think all of us have to acknowledge what everyone’s been dealing with in traversing Newcastle,” he said. “That’s a matter of life, but the new network has taken that into account.”

He said the company would continue to adapt the network based on customer feedback.

Keolis Downer will have “travel concierges” and pink-shirted customer service staff on board buses and ferries from Sunday to help commuters.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5164294/keolis-downer-says-bus-changes-big-step-ahead-for-newcastle/

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Newcastle City Council has welcomed a $5 million Australian Government grant to deploy digital technology to make it easier to move around the city and run it more efficiently.

The Smart Move Newcastle project, part of Council’s Smart City vision, will integrate digital technology in vehicles and infrastructure to deliver a more convenient multi-modal transport system and yield productivity and energy efficiency gains.

In addition to the $5 million contribution, Newcastle City Council together with partners will contribute $10 million. Key city partners include Keolis Downer, the University of Newcastle, Eighteen04, CSIRO and RDA Hunter.

The federal funding will support a range of initiatives including:
• A pilot electric vehicle hub on the city fringe with chargers for electric cars and e-bikes for hire
• On-demand bus transport offering a more personalised service
• Autonomous vehicle trials
• Bus stops with technology to provide users with real-time information, such as when the next bus is due and how many seats are available
• Roads and intersections with real-time traffic analysis to give emergency vehicles green lights and commuters a heads up on traffic jams
• Inroad sensors to provide data on parking availability via apps
• Sensors in buildings to monitor and manage energy use and provide business insights
• Cameras in smart light poles to analyse cloud coverage and estimate solar energy production

The announcement follows the NSW Government’s $10 million commitment to the $17.8 million Hunter Innovation Project (HIP) in September last year.

The HIP is now delivering smart city infrastructure throughout Newcastle’s CBD and will establish an innovation hub for researchers, industry and entrepreneurs to commercialise ideas and promote economic development.

Source: http://www.hbrmag.com.au/article/read/smart-city-funding-for-newcastle-2603

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The story of Newcastle’s urban renewal project has been squeezed into road cases and is set to roll out to Australian cities and towns.

The mobile exhibition, ‘Renew In A Box’, is on display at Newcastle Library until the end of January, and will be offered in conjunction with Renew Newcastle’s not-for-profit consultancy service.

Renew Newcastle is a social enterprise project that finds spaces for artists and creatives over the short- and medium-term, within buildings or outdoors, in Newcastle’s CBD that are currently vacant, not used, or awaiting redevelopment.

Buildings were “borrowed” for the project, Renew Newcastle’s general manager Christopher Saunders said.

“And that’s what you’ll see in these boxes.”

An independent economic study by the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle found in 2017 that for every $1 invested in Renew Newcastle it returned $14.40 and added $3 million to the economy.

Renew Newcastle is supported by the NSW Government through Urban Growth NSW, Hunter Development Corporation and NSW Premier’s Department, and backed by Newcastle City Council, Newcastle Now and The GPT Group.

Renew Newcastle has consulted on 39 projects in cities and towns around Australia.

The Renew Newcastle model has been the subject of a television series Not Quite Art on ABC TV, and the book Creating Cities by its founder Marcus Westbury.

More than 200 projects have launched in Newcastle using the Renew model in nine years.

Artists and creatives are only ever temporary tenants, free to stay as long as the buildings were not being used. They must be ready to vacate within 30 days if required.

In Newcastle more than 30 Renew participants have gone on to sign commercial leases on the buildings they started in.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-06/urban-renewal-blueprint-in-a-box/9231918

 

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For Tourism Hunter chairman Will Creedon, the Newcastle 500 Supercars event was a success before a single race was run on the weekend.

“People are starting to see the significance of events,” Mr Creedon said, “and the emergence of the visitor economy. That is really, really satisfying. A lot of people in our region have been harping about what tourism can do. This is one of the events. It doesn’t matter if it is Supercars. It is how we have set ourselves up.

“A lot of people have worked hard. Some will never be known. I want to thank them. By having such a major event it allows us our next step.”

He offers a bevy of events in Newcastle and the Hunter over the past 10 years that have proved the region has the infrastructure in place to hold a major event like Supercars. He reels off a list of acquired strengths – volunteers, police, business support and industry. And the events that preceded Supercars: Special Olympics, World Youth Games, Asian Cup and home-grown festivals like Steamfest in Maitland.

Mr Creedon’s busy mind is already focused on the next big thing.

“Our first major event just happened to be Supercars,” he said. “The thing is, it’s the first major event. That is really important. For me, it is about where do we set ourselves up for in the future.”

One creative idea floated by Creedon: why not take advantage of the massive temporary infrastructure and road closures put in place for the Supercars event, perhaps as early as next year. The concept: immediately after the Supercars host a convention around engineering technologies and other smart technologies, drawing the best from Asia and the Hunter region.

He is also an advocate for the property along Newcastle’s foreshore from Nobbys lighthouse all the way to Wickham coming under separate management.

“I believe we need an authority to program and drive that area,” he said. “I’m not talking buildings, I’m talking about activities, events, things that enrich our everyday lives. By default, it will enhance cruise activities. It will enhance the reason to live here.”

Mr Creedon envisions it as a “global playground” capable of drawing 400,000 visitors on a weekend.

Turning the old Newcastle train station into a vital tourism drawcard is essential, he said. “It’s not about the built form. You can be really clever there.”

He said the location could be “our Statue of Liberty”.

So many changes in the past five years have already contributed to Newcastle becoming a buzz city to others around the nation and world, he said.

“We don’t know how great we are, and how great we can be,” he said.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5079077/supercars-are-one-giant-step-for-hunter/

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NEWCASTLE’s pedigree as a pub rock city is on show as part of a museum exhibition celebrating its heyday.

Rock This City offers a glimpse through time to the sweaty band rooms of pubs and clubs around the city in the 1970s and 1980s until February 4.

It features acts like The Heroes, DV8, A Rabbit, Total Fire Band and Live Wire.

The exhibition features objects from the era, gig posters, outfits and video footage. It also covers the infamous Star Hotel riot of September 1979.

The Newcastle Museum exhibition shares its name with a book by professional historian and researcher Gaye Sheather published last year.

It came together through more than 20 interviews with musicians including Mark Tinson (A Rabbit, The Heroes), Greg Bryce (DV8), Dana Soper (The Magic Bus) and former journalist and musician Leo Della Grotta (Baron).

Ms Sheather helped curate the showcase of the city’s glory days of live music.

She told the Newcastle Herald in 2016 that the period laid a foundation for bands like The Screaming Jets and Silverchair.

“I guess the environment had changed by then and Triple J has become national, so there was more scope for bands to play to greater audiences,” she said.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5067962/rock-this-city-relives-the-glory-days-of-newcastle-pub-bands/

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The University of Newcastle (UON) has attracted $12.2m in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding to investigate some of the nation’s and world’s greatest health challenges.

Announced today by the Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP, at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), the NHMRC funding for Newcastle will support 17 research projects and three fellowships.

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the NHMRC’s support for Newcastle’s researchers was testament to the University’s reputation for conducting world-class research.

“The University of Newcastle boasts some of the most accomplished, innovative and internationally-renowned minds in health and medicine,” Professor Hall said.

“Today’s announcement by the Australian Government bolsters Newcastle’s outstanding research performance in stroke and fertility, and acknowledges our strengths in research delivery across respiratory diseases, cancers and, mental health and substance use.”

“Research carried out at UON benefits not only the Hunter community, but also creates impact both nationally, and worldwide. Today’s announcement of almost $12 million in new funding will allow our academics to continue to lead the way in health and medical research.”

The NHMRC funding announcement includes support for the following projects:

$1.4m to Professor Amanda Baker and her team to develop Quitlink: Accessible smoking cessation support for people living with severe and enduring mental illness. This project will use the peer workforce, whose development in mental health services is a national priority, to bridge the persistent gap between mental health services and Quitline.
$385,000 to Dr Chantal Donovan and her team to target remodelling in COPD, chronic asthma and Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). These diseases have enormous socioeconomic burdens in worldwide, and are amongst the most common, debilitating lung diseases, characterised by a loss of lung function leading to severe breathing difficulties.
$870,000 to Associate Professor Christopher Dayas and his team: Cognitive inflexibility and the development of pathological habits in brain diseases.
$1.1m to Professor Murray Cairns and his team to examine complete genomics for mechanistic insight and precision treatments of schizophrenia.
$640,000 to Professor Murray Cairns to investigate the network biomarkers of traumatic stress resilience and sensitivity. This project will explore why some individuals exposed to trauma respond adversely while others do not. Traumatic stress is a significant precursor for chronic mental and physical illness, which collectively represent a substantial burden of disease globally.
$650,000 to Associate Professor Brett Graham and his team who will determine how a recently discovered network of nerve cells in the spinal cord contributes to extreme, persistent pain, and explore how it could be targeted to provide pain relief.
$1m to Associate Professor Christopher Grainge and his team to investigate whether bronchoconstriction (airway narrowing) worsens asthma.
$925,000 to Professor Philip Hansbro and his team explain the role and potential for therapeutic targeting of toll-like-receptor 7 (TLR7) in emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
$905,000 to Professor Phil Hansbro and his team to define the roles and targeting interferon-epsilon as a new therapy for influenza in asthma and COPD.
$820,000 to Dr Gerard Kaiko and his team to investigate functional characterisation of novel metabolites in asthma and identification of new biomarkers.
$175,000 to Dr Heather Lee and her team to target cancer-initiating cells with DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitors, which may lead to the prevention of cancer progression.
$405,000 to Associate Professor Joerg Lehmann and his team: First ever system to continuously and directly measure the internal anatomy to guide breast cancer radiation treatment under deep inspiration breath hold.
$530,000 to Professor Brett Nixon and his team for their project: Elucidating the role of epididymosomes in the transfer of fertility-modulating proteins and regulatory classes of RNA to maturing spermatozoa.
$450,000 to Dr Kirsty Pringle and her team to explore the factors that inhibit the trigger of preterm birth, the single largest cause of death in infants. This may lead to the identification of novel treatments that have the potential to delay the onset of preterm labour.
$510,000 to Associate Professor Rohan Walker and his team to investigate paralysis of microglial (a type of cell located throughout the brain and spinal cord) in post-stroke neurodegeneration (SND): help or hindrance?
$490,000 for Associate Professor Rohan Walker to assess stroke induced disturbances in glymphatic clearance: implications for brain repair?
$675,000 Professor Xu Dong Zhang for their project: Role of lncRNA IDH1-AS1 in regulating c-Myc driven-glycolysis and tumorigenesis.
The NHMRC also announced three Translating Research Into Practice (TRIP) Fellowships to UON researchers:

Associate Professor Gillian Gould, School of Medicine and Public Health ($180,000)
Mrs Rachel Sutherland, School of Health Sciences ($180,000)
Dr Kate Bartlem, School of Psychology ($180,000) – offered under the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Next Generation Clinical Researchers Program from the MRFF Health Special Account.
Professor Christopher Grainge is a Staff Specialist in Respiratory & General Medicine at Hunter New England Health. Dr Rachel Sutherland is Nutrition Manager at HNE Population Health. Dr Kate Bartlem is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at HNE Population Health.

Source: https://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured-news/$12.2m-to-support-newcastles-vital-health-and-medical-research

 

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Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes say new ferry stops at Stockton and Wickham should be a “very strong part” of the state government’s transport master plan for the Lower Hunter.

The state government’s Draft Regional NSW Services and Infrastructure Plan lists new ferry stops in Newcastle as an “initiative for investigation in 10 to 20 years, subject to business case development”.

But Cr Nelmes said a new ferry wharf to service Stockton’s 4000 residents, airport commuters and Port Stephens should be a priority, along with a stop near the new Wickham transport interchange.

Hunter Development Corporation is understood to have included a future Wickham wharf in its planning for a stretch of vacant Honeysuckle waterfront land near the marina.

“Linking passengers from the expanding suburbs north of the Hunter River, and from Newcastle Airport, directly to the interchange would certainly create a better commuter experience for those passengers, especially workers who commute daily for work,” Cr Nelmes said.

She said a new Stockton wharf could be built near the refurbished North Stockton Boat Ramp.

Newcastle City Council announced last week that it was investigating doubling the size of the car park at the Stockton terminal, from 120 to 250, and introducing paid parking. It has included a north Stockton terminal in its feasibility study.

The Newcastle ferry service catered for more than 450,000 passengers in the past year, according to Transport for NSW Opal card data, although the true number could be significantly higher.

Transport for NSW told the council in June that a draft of the 40-year Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan would be released in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Exploring options for an additional ferry stop at north Stockton would naturally ease pressure on the Stockton terminal, and the surrounding commuter car parking, as well as providing a great option for commuters travelling to Newcastle from north Stockton and Port Stephens,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Ultimately, expanded ferry services should also be a very strong part of the NSW government’s integrated transport plan for Newcastle, along with all other modes of transport required to assist Newcastle transition from a great regional centre into an emerging global city.”

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp also urged the government to include the Wickham interchange in its short-term thinking, saying 10 to 20 years was far too long to wait.

Supercars will use the existing Stockton car park and parkland to the west and east as a paid parking area during the Newcastle 500 weekend in late November.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5023521/lord-mayor-urges-state-to-expand-ferry-network/

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A Facebook post has sparked a storm of nostalgic excitement among the Newcastle community.

Could beloved restaurant Big Al’s be reopening in Newcastle?

That was the promise from a mystery hospitality operator on Facebook on Saturday.

Thousands of Novocastrians were ecstatic with the news, but no further information has been released.

Fairfax Media attempted to make contact with the anonymous poster and received this message in response.

“Thank you for you interest in the return of the iconic Big Al’s Family Restaurant. The social media response to our post has been overwhelming, with a reach of over 180,000 people. We won’t be releasing any further details at this early stage. However, the relaunch of Big Al’s will involve experienced hospitality operators, carefully recreating the sandwich and subs which everyone has come to know and love. We will be releasing more details over the coming months for a relaunch in the first half of 2018. Thank you.”

It looks like the popular family restaurant, which closed in October 2006, really is due for a comeback.

The burgers, the fries, the little red plastic baskets and all. It is almost too much to handle!
Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5006007/big-als-could-be-in-for-a-big-comeback/

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Newcastle’s heritage buildings will get a hand from the state government with funding.

Nobbys Headland will receive $39,000, while the Maritime Museum will get more than $64,000 for projects that “increase community interaction and participation” with heritage.

The museum said it plans to use its funding for an animation project, which includes a 360-degree 3D virtual reality exhibit.

Income generation, activation options and flexible interpretive spaces will be explored for the headland.

Source: http://www.newcastlestar.com.au/story/4977516/heritage-buildings-get-some-love-and-funds/

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A messenger from another planet was spreading the gospel of change in Newcastle two weeks ago.

Her name: Kaila Colbin.

Her message: prepare yourself for great technological change.

Colbin is an ambassador for Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank and business incubator that aims to educate people about technology change in society.

Singularity University has planned its first Australian Summit for February 2018 in Sydney, with several speakers covering topics on technology and change.

Colbin, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, curated the organisation’s first summit in New Zealand.

Among her chief interests is artificial intelligence (AI).

“I’m interested in technological unemployment. What are we doing about jobs, that are being replaced by AI,” Colbin says. “Do we have systems, processes and structures in place to retrain people for new jobs. Are we looking effectively at all the possible policy responses to that, in terms of minimum basic income or affirmative action for humans, or a whole range of possibilities we can be thinking about now.”

Among the topics that come into that discussion: provision of a universal basic income and continuous learning.

Colbin points to the notion of society changing its lifestyle model – “Right now, the first third of our life is education, the second third is work and the third is retirement. We have to move away from that model and towards a model where we take those things and we slice them up into thin slices and we shuffle them together.

“So we do a bit of education and them we deploy that out in the real world, then we do some more education and we deploy that in the real world.

“So instead of you’ve learned to be your thing . . . you are that thing for the rest of your life, it is a model of continuous adaptation for the rest of your life because we don’t know what jobs are going to look like 10 or 15 years from now.”

Colbin was keen to visit Newcastle, even for day, because she had heard much about it from the ReNew Newcastle project created by Marcus Westbury. Colbin is heavily involved in the regeneration of Christchurch.

She called it “one of the most fascinating cities to live in in the world”. And acknowledged it has much in common with Newcastle.

“We have similarities in collective sense – our unique position, our scale, the society that we have, the kind of people we have. We have the opportunity to reimagine the way we want to live together in a new way,” Colbin says. “We have the opportunity to be innovative in a way that larger cities struggle with.”

Colbin addressed several groups in Newcastle in her short stay, encouraging attendance the Singular University Australia Summit, where technology and change will be front and centre on the agenda.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4953443/finding-our-way-into-the-future/

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The Hunter Region’s lack of highly-paid jobs could be greatly improved with a much bigger injection of state infrastructure funding, a leading academic says.

This lack of higher incomes meant less consumption and less opportunity, University of Western Sydney Professor Phillip O’Neill said

Only 6 per cent of Hunter residents earn more than $2000 a week, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.

The Hunter is slightly ahead of its regional neighbour, the Central Coast, an area where 5 per cent of citizens earn that kind of money.

In Sydney’s eastern suburbs, 17 per cent of people make more than $2000 a week.

Professor O’Neill, who teaches geography and urban studies, said there was an absence in the Hunter of “very highly paid professional services occupations, in particular law and finance”.

The decline of heavy industry like BHP and the sale of coal mines to global corporations added to a lack of senior positions, he said.

An exodus of senior positions in the region’s public sector since the 1980s and 1990s was also a factor.

Professor O’Neill said the Hunter had its positives, including a world-class university and TAFE, but “a lot of graduates from those institutions are forced to leave the region” to get good jobs.

Other attractive attributes included Newcastle Airport, the M1 motorway and Newcastle’s harbourside location.

But by world standards, the region was not competitive enough, he said.

He said it was difficult to think of any solution, other than a concerted government effort to attract a core of quality employers.

“There are good lessons in Australia to how governments can build concentrations of work,” he said.

“One is the Barangaroo project in Sydney.”

He said the NSW government had built infrastructure and partnered with the private sector to create this precinct.

“Barangaroo will yield 25,000 high-quality professional services jobs,” he said.

“If it takes that sort of effort to generate that number of jobs on the edge of Sydney Harbour in the middle of a global city, why would governments think that jobs can somehow spring up spontaneously in a regional city without similar effort?”

While the NSW government is spending $650 million to revitalise Newcastle, it is spending much more at Barangaroo.

Additionally, it is spending billions on the Sydney Metro rail system, which will have a station at Barangaroo.

“Every successful professional services conglomeration has excellent amenity for workers and high-speed transport and telecommunications connections,” Professor O’Neill, who lives in the Hunter, said.

Investment in Newcastle was “unbalanced because it’s biased towards residential”.

“It’s high quality residential and, no doubt, it’s the type of development that would attract qualified young professionals,” he said.

“But we don’t see the type of commercial and infrastructure development that significant employers would be looking for to invest in downtown Newcastle.”

As such, apartments would more likely attract retirees than workers, he said.

Newcastle City Council said it had, for years, been working with Hunter Development Corporation, Urban Growth and the Department of Planning to revitalise the city centre.

“Council has also examined the future role of Wickham, adjacent to the new commercial core, through the recently released master plan for the suburb,” a spokesman said.

“The vision sees Wickham evolving into a diverse and dynamic mixed-use precinct.

“As part of the master plan, proposals are being considered to increase building heights along the rail corridor to help promote the growth of employment opportunities, including service industries.”

Professor O’Neill said the Hunter was evolving into “a broader service-based economy”.

“The sorts of jobs that are typical of a population-based service sector aren’t highly-paid positions,” he said.

“They also include a higher proportion of casual and part-time positions.

“This gives you a larger number of people in the $20,000 to $30,000 a year bracket – almost certainly they are part-time and casual workers.”

The ABS figures show that 30 per cent of Hunter residents earn $15,600 to $41,600 a year.

Professor O’Neill said the coal industry had provided numerous jobs worth more than $100,000 over the last decade.

“Those coal numbers have backed away in recent years,” he said.

“There isn’t a high concentration of occupations in the Hunter that pay in excess of $100,000 per annum, at least as far as wages and salary earners are concerned.

“If anything, the likelihood of finding those jobs is diminishing.”

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4941580/how-newcastle-could-attract-the-big-bucks-photos-poll/

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NEWCASTLE Library will close for almost a fortnight as part of a restock and upgrade.

The War Memorial Cultural Centre, which houses the library, is receiving a grand re-opening to mark its 60th anniversary.

It will shut from October 3 until October 14 as part of the works, which begin September 30.

The local history library will also be closed ahead of the October 16 re-opening.

“This is an exciting time for Newcastle Library as the final work is done on its transformation into a facility befitting the digital age,” Newcastle City Council interim chief executive Jeremy Bath said.

“The original design and layout of the facility catered to manual record keeping of the 1960s and a catchment area of around 150,000 people, so it’s a timely upgrade ahead of the building’s Diamond anniversary.”

Work started in April to modernise the library, including a “makerspace’ showcasing digital technology on the first floor.

The building will also accommodate collaborative work and study areas under the $1.3 million changes.

Space to read and research will grow about 85 square metres, with quiet spaces and a children’s zone also included.

The after-hours return chute will remain open to accept the return of items during the 11-day closure.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4914467/newcastle-library-to-close-for-13m-upgrade/

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IF you’ve ever wanted a captive audience to show the best sides of Newcastle, here is your chance to shine.

Roughly 120 accredited guides will be chosen to promote Newcastle in a Newcastle City Council bid to spread civic pride to the city’s growing numbers of visitors and tourists.

The NEW Crew, established with Training Services NSW and TAFE NSW, will give guides free training to help showcase Newcastle’s tourism and hospitality hotspots to the city’s visitors.

“We are seeing more and more major events choose Newcastle as a host city,” interim chief executive Jeremy Bath said.

“From Socceroos, Matildas and Wallabies to Supermoto and Supercars, we’ve proven to be gracious hosts and we want to build on this reputation by having guides on hand.”

 Total visitor nights in Newcastle rose to 2.6 million last year according to Tourism Research Australia, a 9.7 per cent rise on the previous year’s figures.

With potential for international flights into Williamtown and a new cruise terminal, Mr Bath said the city was well positioned to maintain the trend.

Anyone interested in becoming a guide as part of the NEW Crew can email tourism@ncc.nsw.gov.au for more information.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4894641/keen-guides-to-showcase-our-citys-best/

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THE Grateful is, well, grateful.

The “one for one” pay-it-forward bouquet business launched barely six months ago by Newcastle mums Gemma McBurnie and Jessica Shuwalow has reached a milestone.

The online floral business has delivered more than 500 of its bouquets to the John Hunter Hospital and Ronald McDonald House thanks to the support of local businesses and individuals.

The Grateful works on the concept of allowing clients to buy a bouquet knowing that another similar bouquet will then be donated to the hospital.

“It’s almost like it’s become bigger than us, The Grateful has its own legs and we are just keeping it going, the community support has been amazing,” says Mrs Shuwalow.

“And when you go to the hospital, people come running up to say thank you and that we’ve made their week, so it’s taken off.

“It’s not really about the numbers [of bouquets] but it’s about the impact.”

Friends Mrs McBurnie and Mrs Shuwalow began their venture late in 2016, determined to run a business that “removes transactional consumerism” and allows customers to bring cheer to themselves and others.

Hunter businesses soon learnt of the venture and many take part in a subscription program where they receive a weekly bouquet for their office, home, clients or employees and then sponsor a particular area of the hospital or Ronald McDonald House where their donated bouquet goes.

At the end of each week following the delivery of their donated bouquets, participants receive an ‘feel good’ email update with some pictures and a story about their donated bouquet, which businesses can then share with their network.

Mrs Shuwalow said the business has grown organically – both she and Ms McBurnie have young children and have not actively promoted it – and relied on word of mouth: “For us it’s not about the money so far, it’s been more about the cause.”

And the community has rallied to the cause.

“We’ve had people calling to offer jars or vases which we use to put the flowers in, or just to donate, it’s been overwhelming,” she says.

“People feel so good with the concept, it puts things in perspective, like ‘Hey, I can afford flowers if it’s once a week or yearly but I can share that’, because there is someone else always worse off than you, so be grateful for the good things.”

The Grateful supports local florists in sourcing its blooms and its founders plan to open a bricks and mortar store in Carrington with the same concept, this time dealing in homewares and clothing.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4871084/idea-blooms-to-create-a-fresh-way-of-giving/?cs=4200

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Local engineering company Varley Group has secured the contract to unload cargos of wind turbines from ships arriving at Newcastle Port.

The contract win comes after the shipping company caved to community pressure and agreed to stop using Singaporean workers to unload the ships.

“As the wind turbine parts are welded to the deck of the ship, this is specialised work that calls for specialised metal workers to ensure safety,” Federal member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said.

“It was always outrageous to deploy a fly-in crew from Singapore to unload ships at our port when there is an abundance of skilled workers right here in Newcastle.

“The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Maritime Union of Australia, workers and community members united to send a clear message that this behaviour is not acceptable in Newcastle.”

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4863141/varley-group-wins-contract-to-use-local-workers/

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Love it or loathe it, preparations for the Newcastle 500 are reshaping the east end of the city.

From above, near Fort Scratchley, the form of a track for the November Supercars race has started to appear.

Event manager Kurt Sakzewski said motorists would be able to drive along the first piece of new racetrack from early next week – a hairpin bend through the park near Horseshoe and Nobby’s beaches.

“This will be the first time that people will see what the new section of track will actually look like,” he said.

After the race, grass will temporarily cover parts of the track that cut through the park until next year’s event.

“If someone comes up with a better solution then obviously we are open to that,” Mr Sakzewski said. “I think there’s potential for that roadway to be of use to the community.”

Mr Sakzewski said the closure of Watt Street to all but local traffic allowed crews to complete major work faster than anticipated, and the street was expected to reopen by the end of August.

“It’s obviously a bit hard for some people at the moment to see through all of the works that are going on,” he said. “They’re going to end up with a much better environment for all the people who live, work and play around the east end area.”

But Cooks Hill resident Brian Murphy said the community had been “totally sidelined” by event organisers. Mr Murphy was the Newcastle coordinator of the federal government’s Building Better Cities program between 1994 and 1998.

“[The park is] a community asset, it’s the premiere foreshore parkland in Newcastle and I suppose any council and community in its right mind would not want a large area cut up to provide facilities for essentially one sporting event that lasts for three days,” he said.

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said urban renewal taking place in the city’s east end was “unprecedented” in that part of town. She said a decade’s worth of upgrades were being completed in five months, ahead of the race.

“The result will be better roads, footpaths and cycleways, more reliable water supply and internet, and a greener foreshore with more usable shade,” she said.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4822925/supercars-hairpin-appears-photos/

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THE security company that was at the forefront of cleaning up Newcastle’s violent reputation has merged with another city firm and ramped up its training component in a move it says gives city businesses a first-of-its-kind security offering.

Holistic Security, led by Ben Dewson and Charles Hall and specialising in providing security staff to leading city clubs, has merged with Balance Security Solutions, which focuses on security technology, alarms and patrols.

The new company Holistic Industries’ third arm is a registered training organisation started two years ago by Mr Dewson and Mr Hall which runs accredited training programs for those looking to enter the security or hospitality industries.

Mr Hall said the training aspect of the new company would allow it to mould the next generation of staff entering the security field.

“What we bring to the table is passion for our industry and it gives us the change to train people right from the start, by experts in our sector, and we can mould them straight away on correct practices,” he said.

Mr Dewson and Mr Hall were key industry spokesmen in 2008 when the NSW Government introduced the Newcastle Solution, essentially lock-out laws to reduce alcohol-related violence at night spots.

They say by 2011 it was clear the Solution had not had the desired effect, leading them to work with pub owners including Russell Richardson to form the Newcastle Entertainment Precinct, which introduced scanning technology to ban repeat offenders.

Holisitic’s behavioural-based security method  – which relies heavily on educating both patrons and guards and changing behavioural patterns – have been credited by the likes of Mr Richardson for helping curb club violence.

“There’s been a change in security where venues no longer want some big, dumb bouncer looking intimidating,” says Mr Hall.

“It’s not about just having a product, you need customer service and people want to have a good experience at a venue, so when it comes down to security, it needs to complement the business.”

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4758167/a-holistic-experience/

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The NSW Government has announced funding to renew Newcastle’s Fitzroy Street shipyard slipway to reactivate the Port of Newcastle and the Hunter as a major marine ship repair and maintenance precinct.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro, said defence company Thales Australia will begin stage one of a phased redevelopment of the site, creating an additional 70 new jobs.

“This ship repair operation for a nationally significant facility will revitalise the Hunter’s proud maritime heritage and restore the Port as a maritime hub,” Barilaro said.

“The slipway upgrade will allow the Port to handle bigger ships, attract skilled tradespeople back to the region and ensure naval maintenance work stays in NSW.”

Minister for Industry, Niall Blair, said Thales Australia’s plan closely aligns with the NSW Government’s Defence and Industry Strategy to build on NSW defence capabilities.

“This will be a major boost for our defence and industry sector. Thales expects to grow local sub-contractor industries to support its maritime operations in the region,” Mr Blair said.

“The Fitzroy Street site will support ship docking, repair and maintenance work as well as engineering, deeper level repairs and maintenance.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Hunter, Scot MacDonald, said the project is a big win for the region.

“Phase one of the proposed redevelopment involves the repair of the Fitzroy Street slipway to allow for ship repairs and maintenance on vessels from 20 to 55 metres in length and up to 1,000 tonne displacement.”

“This will position NSW as a leader in maritime maintenance and drive economic growth in the Hunter.”

Thales Australia CEO, Chris Jenkins, said the company has a long term vision to establish a lasting ship repair and maintenance facility.

“Thales has successfully conducted ship maintenance, repairs and upgrades for Defence and commercial vessels for over 26 years at Garden Island.”

“Thales’s heritage in marine maintenance and sustained engagement with local businesses puts us in a unique position to reactivate the site, creating a new East Coast marine precinct at the Port of Newcastle.”

Source: http://www.australiandefence.com.au/news/newcastle-slipyard-renewal-to-restore-maritime-hub-status

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ANYONE who works on this project, said Ben Marmont, understands how it will reshape Newcastle.

The project engineer for the Newcastle Interchange at Wickham was speaking as a hive of activity surrounded him one June afternoon.

Workers were just putting the finishing touches on new cabling for the train platforms, which have quietly taken shape over the past year, a station that the government believes will move thousands of passengers each day after the opening of the light rail network.

It will be the “transfer point” between heavy rail, light rail, buses and coaches.

The $70 million project is nearing completion, and the government has confirmed it remains on track for an October opening.

It comes as the Newcastle Herald last week revealed more than $1.6 billion worth of development is either in progress or in the pipeline for the CBD – new works which will undoubtedly change the face of the city.

It is a fact not lost on Mr Marmont.

“It’s always at the back of your mind, that this is going to change things,” he said. “The area will look different because of the interchange. It will modernise Wickham.”

On a tour of the new interchange, the Herald was told more than 200 workers had been employed at the site at the peak of construction.

The building is on two levels, with the ground floor open to the public and staff housed upstairs.

Fit-out of the office space is well under way, while landscaping – including the plantation of palm trees – has taken place on the ground floor.

Tracks have been laid on the heavy rail side of the interchange, while commuter signage has been installed on the platform.

The platform is roughly the length of two football fields.

“Driving past can be deceptive; it’s hard to grasp how big and complex the project actually is,” Newcastle Interchange engagement manager Kelly Lofberg said.

The government says it has not yet made a decision on the future of The Store building, which neighbours the interchange, as it is still “market testing” private sector interest in the site.

As work on the interchange nears completion, new developments have started to crop up in Wickham, including the neighbouring $9 million Bishopsgate Apartments.

And plans for a $71 million high rise on Railway Lane are currently before the council.

STATE government officials say they have learnt the lessons from of the roll-out of light rail in Sydney, and have vowed not to repeat the same missteps in Newcastle amid concern for the survival of Hunter Street retailers.

Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp said there were “grave concerns” for many businesses directly affected once construction of the rail line begins, mirroring the plight of some retailers on George Street in Sydney, which has been a construction zone for two years.

In September, the government will begin to close sections of Hunter Street to traffic, before working down to Scott Street next year.

Revitalising Newcastle program director Michael Cassel warned that some businesses would feel a pinch during that time.

However, he said that the government was prepared to adapt its plans if they didn’t work.

“The lessons that we’ve learnt and taken on board [from George Street] are you have to have a very close relationship with the business community, you need to be able to react if things aren’t working, don’t expect your construction schedule to occur without bumps – there’s going to be times where things don’t go perfectly right – and be agile enough and focused enough to change,” Mr Cassel said.

Mr Crakanthorp said some Hunter Street businesses would “undoubtedly” close.

“There will be a lot of pain, more than they’re saying,” the Newcastle MP said.

“There are grave concerns that many businesses won’t be viable and will close.”

Mr Cassel disagreed there would be mass closures, believing many could benefit from new trade associated with light rail workers.

“I don’t think you can say it’s just because we’re building light rail that businesses are finding it difficult,” he said.

 

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4751453/this-is-going-to-change-things-inside-the-newcastle-interchange/

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STOCKTON will receive a skate plaza and playground under a Newcastle council plan to breathe new life into the suburb.

The region-first plan will add a playground, skate plaza and water features on the foreshore west of the ferry terminal.

The concept plan, which goes on public exhibition from Wednesday, was inspired by Stockton primary school students.

It will feature elements nodding to the city’s industrial history including docks, a crane, sand dunes and scaffolding.

Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the plan would be “a social and economic game changer for Stockton”.

 ”Griffith Park has long needed some clever urban design to activate its open expanse and I believe this hub fits the bill,” Cr Nelmes said.

The $1.25 million project will be partly funded by section 94 developer levies from Newcastle and Port Stephens councils.

In 2016, primary school students at St Peter’s Primary School, Stockton, requested a playground for Griffith Park in persuasive letters to council and invited council officers to view models they had built.

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4754881/region-first-in-stockton-skate-plan/