Join the discussion
When I arrived in Newcastle in February 1988 to begin university, I thought it was the end of my world.
This was not the leafy north shore of Sydney. The plan was to blitz my first academic year and transfer back to a Sydney university. Including semester breaks, I’d only have to spend 28 weeks in this place.
That was 24 years ago. One more year and I can call myself a local.
It’s one of the charming urban myths of this great city I call home. You have to earn your stripes. If you weren’t born here, you have no entitlement until you’ve served your time.
I fell in love with this quality very early on. Novocastrians are a very proud people. They like to trade on their heritage as a hard working and tough, but fiercely loyal, band of brothers and sisters. We like to think we are somehow different. Special.
In 1988, I felt part of that tribe at the Knights first home game against the other newcomers – Brisbane. Unlike them, our team was founded after a decade of work by committed volunteers. All the money raised by the local community. A team made up of battlers and players that nobody else wanted.
I stood on a milk crate, on the hill, in the driving rain, with 31,000 comrades cheering for MY team.
Today, I have a family membership. We sit under cover in a world class stadium. The club is owned by a local mining billionaire who was 13 years old when the Knights began. The team is full of superstars and we have the best coach in the world.
In 1988, my first student house was in Mayfield. Close to the University, but even closer to the steelworks. BHP directly employed 10,000 people then. The air was thick, the smell was acrid and I could lie in bed and listen to the slag being dumped in the Hunter River.
Today, I live even closer to the former steelworks site. In a 4 year old home that was part of the first infill development in the harbourside suburb of Carrington. We can walk or cycle to Honeysuckle and the beautiful, clean beaches. There are cafes and galleries and public places.
In 1988, there were two peak hours – the change of shifts at BHP, the mines or the “sulphide”. As the sun came up, pubs teemed with men coming off night shift and hitting the early openers. They worked, lived and played in a small universe.
Today, we all drive cars and the commute is getting longer. We sit motionless in our cars at level crossings while empty passenger trains travel to the end of a peninsula along a rail line that cuts the CBD in half.
We need to blend the old and the new. We need to embrace the opportunities of the future, but recognise there was something very smart about how our city worked back then.
How we provided affordable housing close to work. How we moved people around efficiently. How we built a sense of place and belonging.
Newcastle has proven it can change and adapt as a city. Our people have proven they are resourceful and innovative.
Let’s not settle for second best. Let’s take advantage of good ideas, our endless social capital, our resources and ambition to make Newcastle an even greater city.
Growth is inevitable. We will experience the biggest population increase in NSW outside of Sydney over the next 20 years.
So let’s chase smart growth – defined by a whole-of-government commitment to deliver on a regional strategy that offers the jobs, infrastructure and housing we need.
NSW Regional Director (Hunter) – Property Council of Australia