Two prominent Hunter developers have had their say on the state of Newcastle city centre, with one describing it as "like a bloody war zone" and the other saying he expects it to rise "like a phoenix".
GWH Build hosted a business breakfast in the city on Wednesday, which featured a discussion panel that included Hilton Grugeon - a director of the company and chairman of Hunter Land - as well as REA Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee and McCloy Group chairman and former lord mayor Jeff McCloy.
Mr McCloy said the planning approvals process was "horrendous" and he criticised the "layers of bureaucracy" that stood in the way of proposed developments.
He told the meeting he believed legislation and rules were major factors contributing to Australia's high land prices.
"Thirty years ago, when you did a sub-division you needed a surveyor and an engineer," he said.
"Today, you may hire up to 57 different sorts of consultants. You can't even have a general environmental consultant - you have to have a bat expert, a frog expert etc.
"The consultancy industry - and sometimes the consultants in this room - are also to blame because they like to make things drag out so they can write more reports ... [and] their business can grow, but it's to the detriment of the average person in this country."
Mr Grugeon took aim at governments for paying "lip service" to housing affordability, yet driving taxes up and benefitting from the revenue.
He said it was "a real joke".
Ms Conisbee told the meeting earlier that Newcastle had seen a downturn in the property market, but not as severely as Sydney.
She said the market was looking positive and Newcastle's premium suburbs remained affordable when compared with the state capital.
Mr McCloy and Mr Grugeon were asked whether they were optimistic about the future of Newcastle city centre.
Mr McCloy said he was not, in a commercial sense, given the lack of parking in the CBD, but he was optimistic when it came to the city's residential future - in part because those developments provided their own parking.
"From a commercial point of view, you only have to open your eyes and walk down Hunter Street and my last count was 60 empty shops," he said.
"Any social aspiration of public transport is a sheer nonsense.
"Hunter Street is like a bloody war zone instead."
Mr Grugeon said Newcastle CBD had become like a "dead horse" in recent years.
"The only thing to do with a dead horse is burn it and let the phoenix come from the ashes," he said.
"I'm very positive about that phoenix arising in the city of Newcastle. I'm upbeat about it."
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