Newcastle Now asks Gladys Berejiklian, council for ‘meaningful’ light rail help

Newcastle Now wants an audience with premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday to try to secure more money for its light-rail relief plan.

The business support group is working on a package to provide immediate financial relief to traders affected by tram-line construction in Hunter and Scott streets.

It has spoken to Newcastle City Council and the state government about backing the plan but hopes to press the point further when Ms Berejiklian visits the city on Friday to help officially open the University of Newcastle’s NewSpace building.

The premier said on a visit to Newcastle in December that the government was “considering” rental assistance for affected business, but nothing has materialised.

Three weeks ago the council proposedits own assistance plan, a 50 per centrebate on a special rate which CBD property owners pay to fund Newcastle Now, but this was dismissed as “tokenistic” by former Newcastle Now general manager Michael Neilson.

Mr Neilson’s replacement, Richard Christian, said the Newcastle Now package would provide “meaningful” relief, unlike the council’s plan.

“I wanted to make clear that what we’re tying to do here is provide a meaningful and targeted package, so we’re concerned with some of the proposals that have been put forward by council and such, that they’re not going to provide meaningful relief,” he said.

“The only thing that’s yet to be determined is how much money will be in the bucket.

“As soon as we have the amount finalisedwe will be able to start referring people to The Business Centre, where they will be assessed.

“They will get immediate help with their financial situations, and they will be assessed on how much money they need and how much will help them through, and that can be accessed straight away.”

The government has not said when Hunter and Scott streets will reopen but says testing on the track will begin late this year.

Mr Christian said he had requested a meeting with Ms Berejiklian via parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald.

“We feel that the package we’ve got is going to deliver for businesses, so we want some air time with her to present what we feel is the right approach.”

Newcastle Now announced on Thursday the first stage of its relief plan, including free 12-hour consultations with business advisers and financial advice.

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