Lake Macquarie should consider creating the Hunter’s second central business district (CBD) as part of its 32-year Lake Mac 2050 plan for dual identity and economic purposes.
On Monday night, Lake Macquarie City councillors will vote on a Notice of Motion to investigate this matter.
I have been heartened by the collaborative and constructive nature of councillors working across party lines (Labor, Liberal and Independent) in their forward-thinking vision for the city.
It is important to remember that if we do go down this path, those of my generation (Gen Y, also known as millennials), will be on the cusp of retirement in 2050 before the full effect (or dividends) are known.
This is a unique chance to provide a legacy.
A legacy that has the potential to provide opportunities for our children’s generation and the generations after them.
The final Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan (GNMP) was released recently.
Lake Macquarie, despite having 205,000 residents and being the most populated local government area (LGA) in the Hunter, received little reference.
The city of Lake Macquarie in its entirety received only one of 11 catalyst areas in the GNMP.
This is a concern to councillors.
Lake Macquarie has an identity issue, with people who live outside of the Hunter often confusing the city with Port Macquarie, or not regarding Lake Macquarie as a city in its own right.
People who live outside of the Hunter often confuse Lake Macquarie with Port Macquarie, or don't regard it as a city in its own right.
Our critics believe that Lake Macquarie is simply an LGA, or the outer sprawling suburbs of Newcastle.
This must change if we want our infrastructure projects to be prioritised by state and federal governments.
If Lake Macquarie fails to make this change, the next generation will continue to experience the same problems that exist now.
This CBD proposal has the potential to underpin the future success of Lake Macquarie, which will benefit the next generation in perpetuity.
Lake Macquarie will always be interdependent on Newcastle, due to its proximity and historical links.
However, if we seek to remain independent (as the community told us in the last term of council through the Fit for the Future process), we need to start charting a different course to the one we have taken in the past.
What does the Hunter look like in 2050?
Can Lake Macquarie create a CBD to complement Newcastle (similar to the process Parramatta is undertaking with the Sydney CBD)?
Lake Macquarie needs to play its part in enriching the lives of those who will call the Hunter home in the future.
At present, 98 per cent of businesses in Lake Macquarie are small (fewer than 20 employees).
Having a CBD could provide an opportunity and environment for growth in medium (20-199 employees) and large (200+ employees) businesses.
Forty per cent of the current working population in Lake Macquarie is employed outside of the LGA.
About 8 per cent of our current working population commute outside of the Hunter to places including Sydney for their jobs.
Additionally, many young people (school leavers, university graduates and those seeking work) are forced to leave the Hunter to find employment.
This has a substantial impact on their lives.
It also has a significant impact on the families and loved ones who remain in the city.
Having a CBD could provide the opportunities that would help attract and retain the working population and young people. It could provide night time activity, diverse employment opportunities, entertainment, cultural and social experiences.
The identification and creation of a CBD, potentially named Lake Macquarie, is a significant and long-term change for the city.
It would help create a strong independent identity and help us achieve the economic vision we all desire.
Councillors are requesting that staff prepare a report on this matter and give due consideration to existing public transport infrastructure, proximity to the lake and analyse historical attempts by Lake Macquarie City Council to create a locality name Lake Macquarie for identity purposes.
This is an important part in the evolution of our city.
Lake Macquaire City Council should investigate the implications and merits of creating a CBD for dual identity and economic purposes.
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