Wednesday, 7 August, 2019
Lucy Turnbull AO, the Chief Commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), provided insights into how engagement and collaboration can build consensus for a regional future. She shared her experiences at the HRF Centre’s Hunter economic breakfast in July, drawing on a diverse career to offer points relevant to a range of initiatives underway in the Hunter.
Ms Turnbull moved from practice in law into local government in 1999, becoming Sydney’s first female Lord Mayor in 2003-04. She subsequently was appointed Chair of the Committee for Sydney, then chair of the Greater Sydney Commission in 2015.
She explained that organisations like the Committee for Sydney and our own Committee for the Hunter have an essential role to play in articulating, and then championing, what is important for the city and the region.
“Their power lies in the capacity to bring multiple stakeholders, with multiple interests and perspectives, to the discussion table. It is where everyone has a common purpose: to make their city, or their region, work as well as it can. Having that multiplicity of voices is really important,” she stated.
The HRF Centre has been working with key regional stakeholders, such as the Hunter Business Chamber, on the development of the Committee for the Hunter over the past 18 months. The need for such a Committee was specified in the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan, released in 2018. A proponent of the Metro Plan, Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation, recently funded the Centre to accelerate evolution of the nascent Committee.
The Committee’s recent re-launch was attended by more than 100 Hunter leaders from different sectors and diverse organisations. The University and Newcastle Airport were announced as its inaugural patrons. The two are offering significant financial support and encouraging others to join. Early commitments to paid membership have been encouraging, promising to enable the Committee to conduct a search for and then appoint a CEO. That will be followed by agreement on a constitution, a ballot for its first elected Board, and an agenda for research and advocacy. The Committee aims to provide a unified voice in the Hunter, being an independent and inclusive champion for the people of the Hunter and their enterprises.
The Committee for Sydney supported formation of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), Ms Turnbull explained. The GSC, established by NSW Minister for Planning Rob Stokes in 2015, is responsible for alignment of strategic planning and infrastructure development in Greater Sydney. It brings together government departments and agencies, focusing on collaboration and engagement. For Greater Sydney in 2036, they see population growth to 6.4 million, up from 4.7 million today. That will require creation of 817,000 new jobs and 725,000 new dwellings.
“While we were preparing our plans, the Greater Sydney Commission directly engaged with 25,000 people,” Ms Turnbull said. “We held 500 events with communities, local government and industry and received a lot of submissions. Our draft plans were reviewed 90,000 times, and 750,000 people were reached through social media.”
Engagement is necessary to the development of health and education precincts, as well, which Ms Turnbull argued are critically important. The Westmead health and education precinct, for instance, anticipates more than $3.4 billion government and private investment over next 10 years. By 2036, it has the potential to increase its workforce from 18,000 to 50,000 and to grow student numbers from 2,000 to 9,000.
Ms Turnbull said that the bones are in place for the expansion of health, education and innovation precincts in our region. She cited the John Hunter Hospital campus and the University of Newcastle as key assets. Strategic planning is underway for the planned John Hunter Hospital Health and Innovation Precinct, and the University has announced plans for innovation precincts in the Newcastle CBD and the Callaghan campus.
Ms Turnbull explained that such development, “will only be brought to its full potential with a lot of collaboration, across health and education, and with all the people who will drive innovation and the services that make that possible”.
Newcastle has the best topography of anywhere in the world, best assets in terms of health and education, and the greatest potential to do brilliantly in the future, Ms Turnbull observed. It has the potential to leverage those assets via collaboration.
“It is important to have the Hunter Research Foundation Centre, the newly emerged Committee for the Hunter and other groups working toward this end,” she stated. “It is only through collaboration, conversation and engagement that you will develop a dynamic and diversified economy.”
Ms Turnbull is pictured with Cr Bob Pynsent, Chair of the Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils, in a Q&A session on regional collaboration, at the Hunter Economic breakfast in July.
This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Herald on 8 August, 2019