OPINION: Dynamic project will encourage investors

EVOLUTION: How the proposed city centre project will alter the Newcastle skyline.THE unveiling of the $400million plan by UrbanGrowth NSW and GPT demonstrates my and the state government’s commitment to revitalising Newcastle.
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The project will deliver up to 500 residential apartments, 25,000square metres of retail space and a 5000-square-metre commercial zone.

This dynamic project is designed to attract the investment to encourage residential, commercial and retail development in the city and return the east end to its former glory.

Thousands of jobs will be created, the tourism industry will receive a boost and the public will enjoy a lively mix of retail, leisure, entertainment and residential space with a rejuvenated mall.

While some may be concerned that the identity of Australia’s second oldest city could be lost, recently proposed changes to the development control plan by the Department of Planning will protect Newcastle’s rich heritage.

Despite proposed changes to building height limits in the CBD, a significant amount of work has gone into the sight lines to ensure we meet the wishes of the public, especially in keeping Christ Church Cathedral as the key focus of our city. The plans for the light rail link from Wickham are progressing and will combine with the city centre project to give commuters easy access to the CBD, harbour and beaches.

Since the announcement of the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy in 2012, consultation has been ongoing between the community, UrbanGrowth NSW, Transport for NSW and the planning department.

These parties will report their findings back to the NSW cabinet, and cabinet will make its decision on the alignment of the light rail, allowing construction to be under way by the end of this year.

The decision to truncate the heavy rail line and implement light rail, whether it runs down the existing corridor or alongside it, is about designing a transport system that suits the future design of the city, which will encompass a higher population and allow better access to the harbour and leisure precincts.

NeW Space is a $95million education precinct under development by the University of Newcastle in the civic precinct. With funds secured from state and federal governments and the university, preparations are under way to finalise the design, ahead of a development application.

Construction of the CBD university campus is due to be finished by the 2017 academic year.

More than 3500 staff and students will use the campus, climbing to 4500 in the years after.

The $94million Newcastle courthouse will begin operating in the first quarter of next year from the civic precinct. Unforseen issues of remediation have been resolved and the concrete for the first floor was poured two weeks ago. The courthouse will be a vast improvement on existing facilities and inject new life into the CBD.

After the 2011 election, I was asked by a community group to lend my support to an Anzac Memorial Walk for the 100-year year commemoration of the Gallipoli landings and the establishment of BHP in Newcastle.

Design and construction will take up to nine months and I am confident it will open in time for Anzac Day 2015.

The group has raised $3million in private funding for the walk, from Strzelecki car park to Trig Point.

Newcastle City Council approached the group and asked that we extend the memorial to the Bar Beach section of the Bather’s Way walk. The group agreed, on the premise that the council contributes the additional associated costs. The council is now in the process of committing $1.5million.

While some will argue it has taken too long to arrive at this point on key infrastructure projects, the government has wanted to ensure that we plan once and plan right, in consultation with the community, to develop a city that thrives in the 21st century and that will continue to prosper for generations to come.

What we don’t want is a repeat of the former Labor government’s Tourle Street bridge fiasco, which demonstrated little foresight and consultation.

I am confident that over the next year the Newcastle community will reap the rewards of their patience, as we get another significant step closer to a revitalised city.

Tim Owen is state member for Newcastle.

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