Media: By Editorial December 3 2022
FLYING through the hypothetical Hunter Park in a state government concept video, you can be forgiven for looking at the existing precinct with the opposite of rose-coloured glasses.
The entertainment centre, a worthy servant, is past its expiry date. Josh Homme, of the US rock band Queens of the Stone Age, compared it to a high school gym from its own stage a few years ago and nothing has improved since. Given that’s the jewel in the crown of the under-utilised land at Broadmeadow, it’s clear something must change.
What is difficult to fathom, however, is the political lack of imagination that threatens to relegate the plan to the realm of the theoretical. The questions at hand should be about the scale of the development, how well it fits into the area and its benefits to the city. Those are valid concerns that would ultimately improve the detailed aspects of the finished product.
Instead, Novocastrians are left wondering whether the government has the guts to commit to spending big outside Sydney. Residents awaiting the M1 extension at Hexham, to pull but one example, can testify that waits north of the Sydney Basin can stretch into years and even decades. With an impending state poll, though, the seeming reluctance from leaders is cause for concern.
As reporter Sage Swinton’s piece pointed out in Friday’s Newcastle Herald, the wait for a business case did little to halt progress on the city’s light rail and such equivocating would be unimaginable on a Sydney Olympic Park overhaul.
Given the National Basketball League has already expressed interest in exploring a fresh Hunter team if the new entertainment centre is built, it is hard to argue Hunter Park offers little beyond this area.
This project is not going to happen overnight, but that is precisely why tarrying is so detrimental. Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson puts it succinctly: “I think we can say government is doing what they say and what we need them to,” she said. “What we can also say, though, is we’re already five years or more into that planning and now we’re looking at a 30-year development horizon.”
Newcastle may be the state’s second-largest city, but it is intolerable for its major projects to be treated as second-rate. There is plenty of promise left in this region, if only NSW’s leaders can promise to make the most of it with some urgency.