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LYNDALL RYAN: Newcastle to become Hunter city.

VANISHING ACT: The draft plan for the Hunter Region recommends that Newcastle should be relegated to a district in a new region called Hunter City.COMMENTThe Draft Plan for the Hunter Region, released by The NSW Department of Planning & Environment, contains shocking news for Novocastrians.

It wants the city of Newcastle to disappear.

Rather than creating the Greater Newcastle Region, in keeping with the Greater Sydney and Greater Wollongong regions, the draft plan recommends that Newcastle should be relegated to a district in a new region called Hunter City.

There is nothing wrong with Hunter as a name per se as an electorate. The boundaries of the current federal seat of Hunter are being redistributed, but there will remain an electorate called Hunter. The seat was established at federation and its inaugural member was ’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton.

Newcastle is the largest regional city in and gateway to the Hunter, the most productive economic region in .

Other states would be falling over themselves to have Newcastle as their second largest city. So why do the planners and their masters in Sydney want Newcastle to disappear?

Perhaps the plan could have something to do with governance following possible and much-vetted local government amalgamations.

Could the problem be that Sydney owes Newcastle so much as the source of its wealth that the only way the planners can deal with the problem is by making it disappear with the stroke of a pen? The long term evidence tends to support this view.

In 1840 for example, Sydney gave the n Agricultural Company the coal mining monopoly in Newcastle with no caveats to look after the environment.

When the company departed more than 60 years later, Sydney looked the other way when Newcastle asked for resources to address the dangerous unfilled mining tunnels, destroyed headlands and slag heaps in the suburbs.

History was virtually repeated in 1999 when BHP closed down the steel works and once again Sydney largely looked the other way while Newcastle grappled with the problems BHP left behind: massive pollution, contaminated industrial sites and the highest levels of respiratory disease in .

Yet both industries enabled NSW to become the richest state in .

Had Newcastle gained even one third of the wealth they generated for Sydney, it would also be one of ’s richest cities. Instead, according to the n Bureau of Statistics, it’s one of the poorest.

The real problem of course is that Newcastle is not a capital city and the big decisions about its future have always been made in Sydney.

Yet it doesn’t quite explain the ongoing animosity Sydney continues to bear towards Newcastle.

Many saw the decision to close the heavy rail line as a way of cutting Newcastle off from the Hunter region. Now the Draft Plan for Growing Hunter City, released by the Department of Planning & Environment, relegates Newcastle to the ‘Inner Newcastle District’ of Hunter City.

Let’s send a clear message to the Sydney Planners. Dispense with Hunter City, restore Newcastle to its rightful place as the capital of the Greater Newcastle Region and include us in the plan for the region’s future.

– Lyndall Ryan is a member of theNewcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA)

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