CITY of Newcastle will start restoration works at Newcastle's East End, driving a "very hard nail into the coffin" of its relationship with Supercars and the controversial Newcastle 500 event.
At Tuesday night's meeting, Liberal councillor Jenny Barrie said she couldn't go forward without a nod to the businesses and residents in Darby Street, Newcastle East and the Hunter Street Mall who would be "cheering in the streets" with the news council would restore roads changed to accommodate the street circuit.
The council will instead support Cessnock City Council's bid for the proposed Wine Country 500 as an alternative major event for the Hunter region and look at the next steps for Foreshore Park - a decision that sparked some debate.
Liberal Cr Callum Pull said he "lamented" the fact the Newcastle 500 never had the opportunity to become a permanent fixture on the city's calendar - plagued by COVID pauses and "proxy arguments" over attendance figures, costs and environmental impacts.
"The Newcastle 500 was without a doubt the biggest event we ever had and in my view is something that we should be working very hard to return as soon as possible," he said.
"I don't see the need to permanently kill off an event in Newcastle when both the state government and Supercars have left the door open and offered what council said it wanted, being negotiations on a long-term deal.
"The pedestrian crossings, the roundabouts that are currently there, they still work - and spending more money on one of the best maintained roads in Newcastle when we still have roads in the western suburbs that don't even have guttering to me is just wasteful."
Cr Pull stood alone in his support of a future for the race in Newcastle, with Labor deputy mayor Declan Clausen telling the chamber it was time to honour council's commitment and restore the East End.
"This provides the confidence and certainty that our community needs, especially given the motion and clear resolution that came out of the last meeting supported by so many in the chamber," he said.
"The final piece is that it reiterates the council support for the Wine Country 500 as a future option for Supercars in the region, there's been quite a lot of public support for that and I know that [Cessnock] mayor Jay Suvaal has really advocated for that on behalf of his community.
"There is an option for us to see the benefits that come to the City of Newcastle and our broader region through Supercars by supporting that event in wine country, so I'm really pleased and hope that those discussions with both the state government and Supercars continue so that we can see it, alongside a whole range of other great events, continue within our region."
A motion passed in October noted that the council's five-year agreement with Supercars and Destination NSW had expired, but did not explicitly rule out a return of the race in 2025 and beyond.
The council will replace temporary pedestrian crossings and roundabouts with permanent infrastructure as part of its restoration plans and will receive a memo on its next steps including proposed community consultation before any works are undertaken in the Heritage Conservation Area.
Greens Cr John Mackenzie said part of that public restoration should include tree re-plantings, given it was a key commitment made by the council.
"Obviously with Supercars having very strict requirements around visibility, a number of very significant trees were lost and we committed to making sure that we were not just replacing, but actually increasing the shade trees that form that part of the world," he said.
Cr Mackenzie said the restoration will enable the council to continue to revitalise the area around the foreshore which started with the Foreshore Plan of Management.
"It's a very critical and beautiful part of our city, and to see it at its former glory will be a wonderful thing," he said.
It's unclear at this stage what the cost of the restoration works will be, but Cr Clausen noted in the meeting that the temporary infrastructure is "quite costly to maintain" versus something permanent.