OPINION: Silent majority must speak and be heard

THE passion of Novocastrians for their city has inspired change. Locals speak of a vision and ambition for Newcastle’s future, and are fatigued by endless procrastination. They want a living, breathing city that will support progress and thrive on initiative.
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Sadly, for too long, progress has been stymied either by indecision or vested interests intent on maintaining the status quo.

After years of talk but no action by successive Labor governments, the message from Novocastrians I speak to is: “Just get on with it.’’

Well, now we are. As a Liberal and Nationals government, we have made a decision to invest heavily in reinvigorating Newcastle, and to bring the state’s second city back to life.

We can argue until the cows come home about the minutiae, and also about the merits. But let’s face it: that debate has raged for over a decade and resulted in very little.

I acknowledge there have been some difficult times for Newcastle recently. It has caused us to pause and think, but as a government, we ultimately believe investing in Newcastle is the right thing to do.

It’s the right thing to do for all those people who have been crying out for progress, crying out for investment, crying out for a future for their children in such a proud city.

Of course, after last year, it could have been easier for the government to walk away. It would have been especially easy if we were to accept the loud shouts of a few as the voice of the many.

However, we have not just made a commitment to the Newcastle CBD. It is also a commitment to thousands of families around Lake Macquarie and Maitland who will benefit from having a vibrant harbourside city centre on their doorstep. A bustling city, connected to the water, and opened up for the enjoyment of all.

I understand not everybody agrees, but we are in government to look forward, not backward. For decades, we listened to the debate, we participated in it, and now we are in government, it’s time to take action.

We will reconnect the city to the foreshore. We will build a state-of-the-art light rail system. We will create vibrant spaces for people to live, work and play in what has potential to be a jewel in NSW’s crown.

Early indications are that our positive commitment to Newcastle is producing results. The Property Council reports more than $1billion of private-sector investment in the city since we announced our revitalisation plans. BIS Shrapnel released its prediction this month that Newcastle will see as much as 18per cent growth to mid-2016 in Newcastle’s housing market due to increased investment in the inner city.

There is a wonderful future in store for Newcastle, and I cannot bear the thought of it being derailed by yet another decade of talking down change.

As you know, there are some very loud voices shouting out against the government’s plans for the city. No matter how loud the shouts, the majority is often very quiet.

If you support our vision for Newcastle, if like me, you want to bring the city back to life, I encourage you to speak up and make your voices heard.

Pru Goward is the State Minister for Planning