Start-ups help catapult Smart City

Civic Park will feature an illuminated night-time attraction next month thanks to a City of Newcastle project that will see a local technology start-up deliver an interactive light display in the popular CBD park.

The new Luna light display, which will be tested from May 6-10 during the Hunter Innovation Festival, will form part of the “Catapult” trial to harness the potential of start-ups to achieve several strategic Smart City objectives.

Luna-Facebook-Cover-Video-with-Logoinside.jpgLuna’s illuminated night-time display will activate Civic Park after dark

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Newcastle was the perfect testing ground for companies – like Luna – looking to launch ideas in a progressive and emerging Smart City landscape.

“Creative lighting adds a whole new layer of interest to the public domain and we’re delighted to be able to support Luna to test their technology for the first time in a real-world environment,” the Lord Mayor said.

“What is great about Luna is that it allows people to become active participants in the light display, rather than just passive spectators, by giving them the ability to change the colour and intensity of the lights.

“In our increasingly digital age, cities need to look towards new approaches, innovative technologies and smart infrastructure to create an environment that supports economic growth and diversification.

“So, we’ve called upon the visionary ambitions of four very exciting new companies to help achieve that.”

An online mapping platform called Accessibility in the City joins Luna as part of the Catapult trial.

When launched later this year, Accessibility in the City will offer users verified information about where to locate accessible features, such as disabled parking and toilets, and help them navigate busy, cluttered and visually oriented environments.

Accessbilityinside.jpgAccessibility in the City founder Chad Ramage 

Both companies have the capabilities to better understand resource utilisation, and in turn, make improvements to help the City reduce its energy costs.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes welcomed the opportunity for Newcastle to be used as a testing ground.

“The city has been working hard with our stakeholders over a number of years to establish Newcastle and the Hunter as an internationally recognised centre for technology innovation,” Councillor Nelmes said.

“Cities around the world are facing the challenge of improving liveability for their residents while reducing resource consumption, and the companies selected as part of this trial will to help us tackle these challenges head on.

“Our award-winning Smart City Strategy includes clear objectives around making our buildings more energy efficient, around piloting inclusive smart technology to increase equity of access to the city, and around deploying interactive technologies into the public domain to create active and safe places of interest and discovery.

“The Catapult program is one of the many ways that we are delivering on our strategy and our vision to be a smart, liveable and sustainable global city.”

The Catapult program is part of the $13 million Smart Moves Newcastle project, which received $5 million through the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program in 2017.

Police appeal after armed robbery – Waratah

Newcastle City Police are appealing for public assistance, after an armed robbery at Newcastle this morning.

Around 9.30am (Thursday 18 April 2019), officers were called to a licensed premises on Station Street, Waratah.

Police have been told an unknown male entered the premises threatening patrons with a firearm.

He then fled the scene with a sum of cash.

Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident.

Police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen a male acting suspiciously in the area between 9 and 10am this morning.

He is described as being approximately 180cm tall, with a solid build and dressed in dark clothing. His face was covered by a dark balaclava.

If you can assist with inquiries please contact Newcastle Detectives on 4929 0999 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Woman charged after alleged armed robbery – Mayfield

A 35-year-old woman has been charged following an alleged armed robbery earlier this week.

About 3pm on Tuesday (16 April 2019), a woman entered a chemist on Maitland Road, Mayfield.

Police will allege the 35-year-old approached a store attendant and threatened her with what’s believed to be a knife.

The woman then demanded a quantity of prescription drugs, before fleeing the scene.

Officers from Newcastle City Police District attended the scene and searched the area but were unable to locate the woman.

Following inquiries, around 3pm yesterday (Wednesday 17 April 2019) police executed a search warrant at a home on Douglas Street, Stockton, where they seized several items.

A 35-year-old woman was arrested and taken to Waratah Police Station and charged with robbery armed with offensive weapon.

She was granted strict conditional bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court on Thursday 16 May 2019.

Stockton recreational drawcard ‘opens’

City of Newcastle will open a major $2 million playground and skate plaza attraction on the Stockton foreshore on Friday, just in time for the Easter long weekend.

The South Stockton Active Hub next to the ferry terminal will activate Griffith Park by offering families and recreational skaters a place to relax and enjoy the harbour surrounds.


The facility runs in two parallel lengths of around 40m, with the skate plaza on one side and the playground on the other flanking BBQ facilities and a shelter in the middle. Local skaters have already given the thumbs up by breaking through construction fences before their scheduled removal tomorrow

“This is a great development for Stockton that will give youngsters and families the perfect option to enjoy on the northern side of the harbour. Set against a backdrop of the city skyline on a site perfect for Instagram, the facility will also help boost Stockton’s profile as a place to visit,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said after cutting a ribbon today.

“I look forward to coming back in a couple of weeks after the school holidays to celebrate the Active Hub with some of the kids from St Peter’s Primary School who first wrote to us in 2016 to invite us to see their plans and models for the park.”

From Friday morning, some of those kids will be enjoying the new playground’s flying foxes, slides, climbing nets and swings, while skaters relish handrails, angled ledges, an A-frame kicker, zig zag ledge and a half pipe.

Merewether skateboarder George Richards said he was impressed with the new facility.

“It’s great to have a street-style skate plaza,” he said. “I don’t think there is another one in the area, and there are some really unique aspects of the park which makes it interesting.”

The Active Hub was one continuous length of around 100m in the original design but was split to be sit closer the harbour after residents of Hunter Street Stockton expressed their concerns.

The facility has been part funded by a $450,000 Newcastle Port Community Contribution Fund and Section 94 contributions by both City of Newcastle and Port Stephens.


New Council Administration Centre Delivers $13 million Saving to Ratepayers

The City of Newcastle’s (CN) relocation to the west end will benefit ratepayers by $13.1 million over 25 years, according to a business case by Australia’s largest commercial real estate services firm.

CN can today announce the finding of the CBRE business case following the awarding by Council of the tender for the fit-out of the new premises at 12 Stewart Avenue.

“With the fit-out cost now locked in, we can inform the public that the business case by CBRE has confirmed cost savings to ratepayers of $13.1 million over the next 25 years by relocating to the new building versus upgrading the existing buildings.

“This $13.1 million saving doesn’t include the huge gain for the city from the conversion of the Roundhouse into a five-star hotel by the Crystalbrook Collection. Nor does it include $22.2 million in estimated interest that Council will earn from the proceeds of the sale of the Roundhouse”, Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Bath said.

Procurement for the fit-out of City of Newcastle’s new administration centre is set to begin in May following the awarding of a contract to NSW based firm Graphite Projects. On site construction will commence in mid-June.

The $8.2 million contract will fit-out all six floors in the new building for 425 Council staff, and also includes construction of a new Council Chamber.

A reimbursement from the owner of the 12 Stewart Avenue building of $372,000 reduces the actual cost to Council of the fit-out to approximately $7.86 million.

The reimbursement is due to Council’s decision to have carpet installed as part of the fit-out contract with Graphite Projects rather than by the building owner as is typically the case.

CEO of City of Newcastle Jeremy Bath said the move to 12 Stewart Avenue continues to be on budget.

“In October 2017 we estimated the cost of the fit-out at approximately $7 million. Then ten months later the elected Council resolved to move the Chamber to the new building, which we told them would bring the total cost to $7.8 million.

“Council will use the $372,000 reimbursement from the building owner towards the fit-out contract, meaning the actual cost to Council is exactly what we said it would be in July last year,” he said.

United Services Union (USU) Organiser Luke Hutchinson recently met with City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath to discuss several issues raised by union members associated with the move to 12 Stewart Avenue.

“While many of our members are excited about the move, the USU has long said that a collaborative approach with the City is crucial to ensure the wellbeing of all members.

“The USU appreciates there is a level of anxiety associated with any move of this scale, and after meeting with the CEO, we’re confident that we can have any concerns that our members have addressed and resolved in an open and timely manner.

“We also welcome a number of initiatives associated with the move, such as bringing all administrative staff under the one roof and members to enjoy vastly improved workplace facilities”.

“These improvements to workplace facilities and culture can increase collaboration, productivity, encourage staff comradery and raise the overall wellbeing which is really positive for our members working at City of Newcastle,” he said.

Jeremy Bath said that if Council had remained in its current buildings, staff would have continued to be spread across three separate buildings and 13 floors.

“The move allows the consolidation of staff from 3 buildings into one, and across just six floors with a layout that will drive a productive and collaborative way of working.

“Rather than staff being told where they must sit, our employees will decide which team to sit with based on the projects they will be working on that day.

“It’s a new way of working that has proved extremely successful for companies including the Commonwealth Bank, Airbnb, Macquarie Bank, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bankwest and Blacktown Hospital.

“The practise of a staff member having the same desk for twenty years which sits unused when they are out in the field, in meetings, on holidays or away on sick leave, is outdated and an inefficient use of space and resources.

“The advice of some of Australia’s most successful companies is that allowing flexible team-based seating improves staff communication, collaboration and interaction, which in turn ensures better decision making,” Mr Bath said.

Council update Tuesday 16 April 2019

Following is a summary of the Ordinary Council Meeting for Tuesday 16 April 2019. NB: it not a full record of resolutions.

Lord Mayoral Minutes

A Lord Mayoral Minute was supported to commit to continue working collaboratively with the re-elected NSW Government but note with disappointment its decision to abolish the position of Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter.

Executive Monthly Performance Report

Council voted to receive the executive monthly performance report for March 2019.

Exhibition of Code of Meeting Practice

Council deferred this motion to seek further information regarding the status of the role of the recently abolished Office of Local Government (OLG), which was until recently the Office responsible for the Administration of the Local Government Act.

41 and 47 Throsby St, Wickham, Endorsement of Amendment to Newcastle LEP 2012 and proposed planning agreement 

Council deferred this motion until a public briefing is held on the proposal, the public benefit and principles of value capture.

Exhibition of amendments to Draft S7.12 Newcastle Local Infrastructure Contributions Plan 2019

Council voted to place the draft Section 7.12 Newcastle Local Infrastructure Contributions Plan 2019 on public exhibition for 28 days and noted that a workshop be held with the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation on plans for the Proposed Honeysuckle Public Domain Plan.

Adoption of Live Music Strategy 2019-2023

Council adopted the Live Music Strategy 2019-2023. Consideration will now be given for the creation of an entertainment precinct in the City to achieve the aims within the plan.

Public Exhibition of the 2019/10 Our Budget (Operational Plan and Delivery Program)

Council resolved to place the draft 2019/20 City budget on public exhibition for at least 28 days prior to final consideration by Council.

Robey Street, Merewether – Proposed one-way and parking restrictions

Council approved proposed parking restrictions and one-way traffic signage on Robey Street, Merewether.

Adoption of Library Strategy 2019-2029

Council adopted The Library Strategy 2019-2029.

Newcastle BIA Review – Stage 2 – Public exhibition

Council resolved to place the Business Improvement Associations in Newcastle Implementation Report on public exhibition for a period of 28 days.

Notices of Motion

Local planning matters

A Notice of Motion was supported to oppose the mandatory introduction of an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel for Newcastle, with Council affirming its and Council officers’ right to decide on proposals not subject to determination by the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel or the Minister for Planning.

Shifting the City of Newcastle to 100 per cent renewable energy

An amended NOM to continue the review of the City’s 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, and to assess the costs, feasibility and social impacts of deriving 100 per cent of the electricity used across Council’s operations from renewable sources, was supported.

Green roofs, green walls and living buildings

A NOM to develop a policy to support an increase in the installation of green roofs, green walls and living building features, such as walls and roofs, was supported.

Clean Seas Seabin initiative

A NOM to explore partnerships to establish a plastic and rubbish removal initiative in Newcastle Harbour and Throsby Creek was supported.

Tender report – 12 Stewart Avenue office fit-out

Councillors awarded the tender for the $8.2 million fit out of the City of Newcastle’s new offices at 12 Stewart Avenue to Graphite Projects Pty Ltd and councillors also noted a reimbursement of $372,256.50 from the building owner which will offset the contract by an equivalent amount bringing the cost of the fit-out to $7.86 million.

Newcastle dentist’s lost WW1 letters revealed

A book about the World War One experiences of Newcastle dentist Ben Champion, who returned from Europe an amputee, will be launched at Newcastle Library on Tuesday 30 April.

Ben and his Mates The war diaries, letters and photographs of Lieutenant Ben Champion 1st AIF, 1915 – 1920 is a comprehensive and moving wartime account of the adopted Novocastrian, who wrote devotedly to his sweetheart Francis Julia Niland (Frank) from Tarro.

Written by his granddaughter Penny Ferguson, it includes Champion’s diary entries, letters and photographs documenting his time in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) 7th Reinforcements of the 1st Battalion.

Ben-and-his-mates-1.jpg“We are honoured to launch this book at Newcastle Library to add to the local history of World One,” City Manager of Libraries and Learning Suzie Gately said.

“It’s difficult today to even imagine the carnage that Dr Champion witnessed in Gallipoli and the Western Front, so it’s edifying to be able to reflect on it all through the eyes of someone who was there in Egypt, in Gallipoli, at Pozieres and the Somme.”

When he returned from the war, the Sydney-born Champion studied dentistry at Sydney University, despite having his leg amputated following a severe shrapnel injury on the Western front (read below extract), before moving to Newcastle in 1924 to set up practice in the AMP Building on Hunter Street.

He’s still remembered today by patients he helped over 50 years and is also well known as an avid historian who recorded Newcastle’s early history.

Still referenced today, Champion’s collections are held at the Newcastle Library and the University of Newcastle.

Ferguson’s book contains invaluable social commentary of the war and subsequent years as veterans returned home and assimilated back into society.

She hopes it will help preserve Australia’s wartime heritage, as readers experience the enormity and insanity of World War One through the voice of an 18-year-old soldier.

Left: Ben Champion

“The book is different to many books written on WW1,” Ferguson said. “The story is written in the first person by a young, middle-class boy brought up in a close-knit family.

“It references life and attitudes of the time, his relationships with his peers, his experiences as he embarks to Egypt, life in the trenches and then life back home, learning to assimilate back into society.

“Ben also wrote about the seasons, the songs they were singing and the books he was reading in the trenches.”

Ben-and-his-mates-inside2.jpgBen’s great granddaughter Claudia Liebenberg and granddaughter Penny Ferguson with a copy of Ben and His Mates 

Diary extract from the day Champion’s leg was amputated:


At 4pm on this day I finished my Cooks tour of the war. 

Stobo and I were looking around seeing out platoons were comfortable. We had been resting around the hedges of Pradelles all the morning which were occasionally being shelled when I was hit on the left leg at the shin and knocked over and turned me the other way… Four stretcher bearers took me at once to Borre dressing station and an ambulance from there took me immediately to Ebbingham, the orderly watching the tourniquet on my thigh all the time. The only thing I remember is an argument between chaps as to which station owned the tourniquet on my leg and I ventured to hope they would not take it away while I was needing it. I was operated on and in bed at 6pm. My next waking thoughts were in the clearing station ward, where I found out that my leg had been amputated.

The book will be launched at Newcastle Library on Tuesday 30 April at 10.30am.

Claudia Liebenberg, Penny Ferguson’s daughter, can be contacted on 0405 766 875 or


Man charged with stealing ATV quad bike – Mount Vincent

A man has been charged by police investigating property offences near Cessnock.

In the early hours of yesterday morning (Monday 15 April 2019), a Honda ATV was stolen from a premises on Sandy Creek Road, Mount Vincent.

Around 8am the same morning, a number of witnesses reported seeing the vehicle being driven into nearby bushland before becoming bogged.

Police will allege when witnesses approached, a 23-year-old man threatened them before fleeing the scene.

Officers from the Hunter Valley Police District were called and searched the area with no success.

Later that day, police attended a home on Alpine Avenue, Cessnock and spoke with a 26-year-old woman.

A man then allegedly fled from the roof cavity of the home, and police initiated a foot pursuit.

He was arrested at a nearby home and charged with break, enter and steal, intimidation, trespass, malicious damage and breach of bail offences.

He was refused bail to face Maitland Local Court today (Tuesday 16 April 2019).

More charges are expected to be laid.

Police are appealing for any witnesses to the incident to contact Crime Stoppers and Cessnock Police.

Man charged and investigation continues after child consumes suspected illicit drug in food

A man has been charged over an alleged assault and investigations are continuing into an alleged incident of child neglect in the Hunter region.

Yesterday (Monday 15 April 2019), a nine-year-old girl presented at John Hunter Hospital unresponsive and with bruising after doctors were told she consumed food containing an illicit drug and may have been given non-prescribed medication.

Forensic analysis and pathology testing is currently being conducted.

The girl remains in hospital and her condition is being monitored.

Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation and following inquiries, a 28-year-old man was arrested at a home at Raymond Terrace just before 9pm yesterday.

He was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

It will be alleged in court the man, who is known to the girl, assaulted her, causing bruising.

The man was refused bail to appear at Raymond Terrace Local Court today (Tuesday 16 April 2019).

Investigations are continuing.

Police are reminding parents and carers to remove any non-prescribed medication or adulterated food from areas that can be accessed by children to prevent the risk of exposure to and ingestion of potentially dangerous substances.

The Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad is comprised of detectives who are specially trained to investigate matters against children and adults, including sexual assault, serious physical abuse, and extreme cases of neglect.

Anyone with concerns about suspected child abuse or exploitation should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page:

Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. People should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon joined with workers and their representatives today to call out the Morrison Government for ‘savage cuts’ at the Newcastle ATO.

Ms Claydon said twenty per cent of jobs have gone from the Newcastle ATO since 2013.

“The Government says it wants to get more workers into the regions, but they’ve cut 150 jobs from the Newcastle ATO since they came to power,” Ms Claydon said.

“People are retiring and they’re not being replaced, and workers are under increasing pressure. I worry that this may just be the start.”

Ms Claydon also identified at ‘exploitative labour hire practices’ as a key problem.

“The Government is brazenly disregarding the pay rates and conditions enshrined in employment agreements by filling vacancies with temporary labour hire workers,” Ms Claydon said.

“This is exploitation, pure and simple. Labour hire workers are expected to perform the same duties as their colleagues for less pay and none of the workplace rights like sick leave and holiday pay.”

Ms Claydon said the Federal Government’s cap on staff hiring was forcing many agencies to turn to expensive labour hire companies for workers.

“Analysis of the AusTender website shows the Liberals have more than tripled labour hire spending, from $307 million in 2013-14 to more than $1.1billion in 2017-18,” Ms Claydon said.

“The taxpayer is paying more, but workers are getting less because of labour hire fees. The only winners here are labour hire companies’ bottom lines. It’s an absolute outrage.”

Ms Claydon said Labor would make it illegal for labour hire companies to drive down pay and conditions for temporary workers.

“Labor believes if you do the same job, you shouldn’t be paid any less. We will legislate to ensure that workers hired through a labour hire company get the same pay and conditions as people employed directly,” Ms Claydon said.

“Labor will also abolish the Liberals’ arbitrary staffing cap and give agencies the freedom to set their own staffing levels based on what they need and their overall operational budgets.”

Ms Claydon said wages, job security and working conditions would be key battlegrounds for the upcoming election.

“At the moment, too many Australian workers are subject to unfair labour hire practices, and treated like second class citizens with lower wages, substandard conditions and little security,” Ms Claydon said.

“While the Government has admitted to low wages being a ‘design feature’ of its industrial relations, Labor has led the way on policy to deliver decent jobs, higher wages and secure work.”