ONE of Newcastle's leading heritage specialists says the city has been snubbed after convict sites were overlooked for world heritage listing nomination.
But Coal River Working Party chairman Gionni Di Gravio said Novocastrians needed to do more to help their colonial heritage get the recognition it deserved.
Tourism chiefs also believe that lucrative opportunities are going begging while heritage assets remain underused.
A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation meeting in Brazil is expected to decide this morning whether 11 nominated Australian convict heritage sites deserve world heritage listing.
None of the nominated sites are in Newcastle.
Mr Di Gravio said yesterday he was disappointed.
The Coal River Working Party was working to address such omissions.
"Our place in Australian history has been completely rubbed out," Mr Di Gravio said.
Notable Newcastle sites included convict coal mines under Fort Scratchley, the convict lumber yard, and the Macquarie Pier foundation stone to Nobbys breakwall.
"Our aim is to restore Newcastle's history and story back into the Australian story and put it on the world stage," Mr Di Gravio said.
He said the city showed reticence towards heritage, especially where development was concerned, and that needed to change.
Newcastle City Council tourism and economic development manager Simon McArthur is keen to foster heritage.
He said historic sites held great tourism potential, but new interactive experiences were needed, rather than signs.
A council tourism plan is looking at such opportunities.
Newcastle state MP and Tourism Minister Jodi McKay said she was working to protect sites so their potential could be realised.
"Part of what I've been doing is not just looking at building an environment for investment in the CBD but very much looking at protecting our heritage and historical buildings," she said.
Newcastle is Australia's second oldest city.