Gladys Berejiklian to visit university and John Hunter Hospital

HERE’S THE PLAN: Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Revitalising Newcastle head Michael Cassell at the Wickham interchange in December.PREMIER Gladys Berejiklian is scheduled to visitthe University of Newcastle’s NeW Space building in Hunter Street on Friday morning, with an afternoon stop at John Hunter’sneo-natal intensive care unit.

NeW Space is a striking piece of modern architecture, and a major piece in the university’s long-term intentions of building a major CBD campus away from its main presence at Callaghan. And hopefully, at the hospital, Ms Berejiklian will have some sort of funding announcement to benefit government health services in the Hunter.

But while the Premier is in the CBD, the one thing that most people will want to talk to her about will be the state of things in Hunter Street, and the impact on businesses affected by the light rail construction.

When Ms Berejiklian was in Newcastle in December to open the Wickham interchange, she left the door open to helping those businesses when she said:“If there’s demonstrated loss, we’re always considering rental assistance. That’s what we’ve done for other projects in other parts of NSW, so, of course, we’ll look at those issues.”

Five months later, it will be up to the Premier to demonstrate what the government has done to fulfill this promise. Newcastle’s Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp says two businesses have applied for compensation and been denied. The government saysthe Newcastle traders are in a different position to those in Sydney because the capital city light rail has taken longer than expected.While that is true, the Newcastle Herald believesthe Newcastle project has had a far greater impact, in relative terms, because the Newcastle CBD is much smaller than Sydney’s. While the George Street disruption is inconvenient, it has not shut down the CBD. Indeed, it’s doubtful whether more than a handful of shoppers have cancelled a trip into the city because of it.

In contrast, the central Hunter Street strip of Newcastle is almost deserted, except for construction workers.Yes, some food shopsare doing well, and the government’s Revitalising Newcastle agency seems to be doing everything in its power to ensure the work is done as quickly as possible. But taken as a whole, the impact is substantial, and the case for government help is strong.

If the Premier really wants to see what is happening in Newcastle, she could always take up Mr Crakanthorp’s offer of a stroll down the street with him, to see the situation first-hand. What about it, Gladys?

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