Posts Tagged “state”


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.



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.



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.”



A VISITING British planning expert and the state’s chief planner have both described Newcastle as a place on the verge of great things at a planning workshop at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.

London-based Professor Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White spoke at length about the opportunities and challenges facing Newcastle and the broader Hunter Region at the workshop, hosted by Department of Planning and Environment deputy secretary Brendan Nelson and attended by about 80 people.

On his first visit to Newcastle, Professor Clark said he was surprised by what he’d seen, compared with what he’d heard beforehand.

“I thought I was coming to see a city in decline, full of challenges, but when you look at all of the things that are happening right now, it’s already full of opportunities,” Professor Clark said.

Mr White, who took the top planning job in NSW after a long career in local government in Queensland, said Newcastle was in effect the opposite of Canberra. Whereas Canberra had been “planned to death, Newcastle had no metropolitan plan”.

Both men talked about a need to develop long-term plans that could be broken down into phases, and which took notice of change as it happened.

Mr White said planners had done quite well until about 10 years ago in managing cycles of change, but the big “structural disruptions” caused by digital technology were creating “change on a scale we have never seen before”.

Both men said the old method of planning, where industry, residential, health, education and retail were each concentrated in their own zones was no longer working. There were limits to what planning could achieve but a Greater Newcastle Metropolitan plan – together with a single regional voice to back it –  was a necessary first step in promoting the region to governments and employers, as well as potential residents and visitors. The workshop heard Professor Clark would return to Newcastle later in the year as work on the metropolitan plan continued. Asked about better rail links to Sydney, he said there was a risk they might initially suck jobs out of Newcastle but the benefits would eventually work in both directions. Light rail and the CBD university campus meant Newcastle was already on the path to renewal.



THE state government is stepping up plans to fill or “grout” the honeycomb of old mine workings under Newcastle that are one of the biggest brakes on development in the city.

In a broad-ranging set of policies, the government is using its overhaul of the Mine Subsidence Board as the springboard for a new approach to subsidence management in the Newcastle CBD. It is also looking to streamline building approvals, meaning fewer projects would need separate subsidence approvals on top of their council approvals.

Although no-one involved would put a figure on the cost of a city-wide grout, the Newcastle Herald estimates a possible cost of about $500 million.

Katherine McInnes, chief executive of Subsidence Advisory NSW, told the Herald on Thursday that a $17-million Newcastle Mines Grouting Fund set up late last year by Planning Minister Rob Stokes was only the start of the process.

The $17-million fund is being used to pay for exploratory drilling under the city and to insure developers against unexpected costs in site grouting. One application was aproved in September and the Hunter chair of the Property Council, Andrew Fletcher, said at least four more residential projects in the CBD were being funded by the banks “on the certainty that they can apply to the fund”.

Ms McInnes said the government was looking for better ways to grout the city.

“It will not be cost effective to grout the entire CBD but it is a question that remains unanswered,” she said.

“The study will endeavor to at least answer this question.”

Ms McInnes agreed that the network of old mines put Newcastle at a substantial disadvantage to other cities when it came to development.

The $17-million fund put a ceiling on developers’ costs because it gave them a ceiling beyond which the government would foot the bill.

The fund is administered by the Hunter Development Corporation, which says the government “underwrites grouting costs beyond a cap value”.

Using subsidence board maps that divide the CBD into areas depending on the type of working and their proximity to the surface, developers pay remediation costs at a rate of either $200, $300 or $400 per square metre.

“Assuming a site of 1000 square metres and a rate of $200 per square metre, the allowance for that site is $200,000,” the development corporation says. “If  the cost of grouting or other stabilisation work, excluding investigation and consultant fees, exceeds $200,000, the fund pays the difference. If it is less, there is no claim.”

To arrive at the $500 million estimate to grout the entire CBD, the Herald multiplied the city area by the mid-range cost of $300 per square metre.

Acknowledging the scale of the issue, Ms McInnes said the $17-million grouting program was “a great initiative to get things started”  but longer-term funding was needed.

“Experts in the area believe grouting larger areas rather than a piecemeal approach provides better value for money,” Ms McInnes said.

“Importantly, reforms to the Mine Subsidence Compensation Act will allow the Mine Subsidence Compensation Fund to be drawn on for year-on-year funding once the $17 million is exhausted.”

Mr Fletcher said subsidence was one of the Newcastle CBD’s biggest stumbling blocks when it came to development and having the government commit to a longer-term strategy, with funding, was a major step forward.

“We probably expected more applications to the Newcastle grouting fund by now but it was important to get the process right and the industry is becoming aware of the fund, and it’s starting to make a material difference to getting developments financed,” Mr Fletcher said.

He said the property industry was “consulted closely” in setting the rates, which said to developers “here is the maximum you will have to pay to remediate this site”.

The subsidence board published maps of Newcastle mine workings in 2012, but Ms McInnes said the old records were not always accurate and more test drilling will be done to get a better understanding of the task.