Premier Mike Baird and the Newcastle Innovation Project

Posted by | September 29, 2016 | employees, Employers, Industry News


DURING a visit to Newcastle on Monday night, Premier Mike Baird will confirm that the state government is contributing $9.8 million toward a Hunter Innovation Project, which is also receiving $8 million from backers led by Newcastle City Council and the University of Newcastle.

The most obvious manifestation of the project will be a futuristic glass building opposite Civic Park on the corner of Auckland Street and King Street, land made available by the demolition of the 1923 building, TPI House.

But the innovation project is promising more than bricks and mortar – or in this case glass and steel. In a breakthrough that could bring Newcastle into line with some of the world’s great cities, the innovation project is also promising free public wi-fi as well as broadband fibre connections to at least 250 inner-city businesses.

This is the sort of cutting-edge advantage – or at least catch-up to capital cities – that Newcastle will need to realise the dream of becoming a modern, connected city able to use cheaper land and lower labour costs to win business from cities like Sydney.

The Coalition government embraced this potential after its candidates gained a substantial foothold in the Hunter, but as history has shown, those gains were only shortly held, and were subsequently lost.

Since then, the government has found much of its Hunter program opposed by Labor MPs – who can quite properly claim to be representing the electors who voted for them – and by Labor and Greens councillors who can claim a similar mandate in opposing much of the government’s infrastructure and public transport program from their positions on Newcastle City Council.

While there is nothing new or surprising about Newcastle fighting with the decision-makers in Sydney, there is so much riding on the modernisation of the old city centre that none of the stakeholders in this argument can afford to put political interest in front of the public good.

One look at Hunter Street and surrounds shows even a casual observer that the city is on the move. As controversial as it is, a Hunter Street light rail will surely add to the sense of transformation. We are, hopefully, on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation leap, and we need all of our decision-makers – elected representatives and bureaucrats, in power or out of it – to work together.

Now that would be an innovation.


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