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Unfair funding – Why Newcastle is being shut out

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Newcastle was shut out of more than $170 million in government grants in 2019.

That’s according to a new report by the Hunter Research Foundation Centre.

It shows that Newcastle was deemed ineligible for six regional funding sources worth $5.86 billion, because of inconsistencies around whether it’s classified as regional or metropolitan.

Lake Macquarie and Central Coast LGAs were eligible for all six sources.

City of Newcastle Lord Mayor Cr Nuatali Nelmes said the disparity in Newcastle’s eligibility for funding is a significant disadvantage that must be addressed. 

“Our City often falls between the gaps of policy development and grant funding as Newcastle is a metropolitan centre that services regional populations across the Hunter,” she said. 

“Newcastle is the major economic hub of the Hunter region with gross regional product of $17.7 billion, yet we are not receiving fair access to State Government funding.”

Newcastle is eligible for Restart NSW funding, but has received only 0.06 per cent of the money, well below its 2.11 per cent share of the state’s population.

“Newcastle is effectively shut out of all NSW cultural infrastructure grants,” Nelmes said.

In a submission to the Public Accountability Committee’s inquiry into the integrity, efficacy and value for money of NSW Government grant programs, City of Newcastle has recommended the committee create a ‘Gateway City’ classification.

This would recognise that LGAs like Newcastle and Wollongong are major regional economic centres that sit between a metropolitan and regional classification.

“The historical metropolitan versus regional dichotomy no longer reflects Newcastle’s transformation as a major regional economic centre,” Cr Nelmes said. 

“Australian Gateway Cities hold a significant place in the economy but are underestimated in terms of public policy. 

“In partnership with Wollongong and Geelong, City of Newcastle has established a Gateway Cities Alliance to advocate and collectively explore economic opportunities.

It comes a month after Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp called on the Public Accountability Committee to hold a hearing in Newcastle, after noting that the city is not eligible for metropolitan or regional sports funding programs.

Mr Crakanthorp called for several NSW Government grant programs to be examined, saying Newcastle’s eligibility status for grant programs is inconsistent and exclusionary.

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