Monday, November 22, 2010

Being part of the solution

Newcastle is going through some growing pains at the moment, with various developments continuing, not just around our beautiful harbour, but throughout the city. This hasn't been an easy task as every second person has an opinion about what development is appropriate. This debate has not been helped by what to do with the railway that runs from Wickham to Newcastle city and effectively stops development between the CBD and the harbour. It is such a polarising issue that has effectively split into two rival camps, the Save Our Rail group and the Fix Our City group.

While the railway is a major issue, neither group seems to be able to appreciate that there is other development that needs to be addressed. So last Saturday the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) asked for volunteers to come down the Cottage Creek precinct to take part in a workshop to help the HDC with ideas on how the community would like to see the last piece of the Foreshore puzzle fashioned to link the whole project together, from Nobbys Beach to Carrington/Linwood Estate.

The former Cottage Creek site started life as a mangrove swamp and then following the settlement of Newcastle in the 1804, a convict farm was then started in the area (with a Government cottage built, thus becoming known as Cottage Creek), the cottage was located approximately on the site of the new KFC store in Hunter St . As Newcastle continued to grow so did the need for land, especially around the harbour and so progressively the area became one of Newcastle's prime industrial areas. Over the years the area became home to variety of industries including timber mills, fuel depots and finally Throsby Wharf with associated railway marshalling yards. In fact anything north between the railway and harbour became one vast ugly industrial complex.

That all changed in 1992 with the Building Better Cities programme and slowly, but surely, over the intervening 18 years the Newcastle harbour has been transformed from industrial scar tissue to a vibrant city meeting and living space.

Former Wickham School of Arts - 1881
That is not to say there hasn't been mistakes along the way and this is what the HDC is trying to avoid with its emphasis on community consultation in the Cottage Creek precinct development, hoping that it will instead become a show piece for the city of Newcastle. So along with around a dozen other community spirited citizens we spent a couple of hours touring the site providing feedback to HDC representatives, so they can use the information gathered to provide the guidelines  for the eventual rejuvenation of this last piece of the former industrial wasteland.

I also took the opportunity to grab the the Canon 400D to take some shots of the area prior to its transformation, so in a decade or so I'll be able to look back at the photo's and proudly say I was a small part of the process of transformation. Being part of the solution, instead of grumbling about the problems.

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