Wednesday, 8 August, 2018


Planning is underway for an international symposium focusing on ‘second cities’, to be held in Newcastle from 29-31 October. The Second Cities: smaller and smarter forum will bring together national and international expertise. It is being organised by the HRF Centre and is supported by a range of key regional stakeholders in the business and government sectors.

What is a second city?

Where Newcastle might recognise itself as a ‘major regional centre’, internationally it would be seen as a ‘second city’. Second cities represent a significant proportion of the world’s people, economy and activities.

Second cities generally house between 50,000 and 1 million people. They have frequently undergone a planned economic transformation and are contributing significantly to the national economy. As well as easing pressure on their capital city counterparts, second cities are often recognised for providing strategic gateways to regional economies.

Newcastle offers a compelling example of an emerging second city. Strategic investment across key sectors is earning Greater Newcastle a reputation as one of Australia’s more dynamic metropolitan areas. For example, more $1.5 billion in development applications have been approved in the past year in the Newcastle local government area.

Since the closure of BHP’s steelmaking facility in 1999, Greater Newcastle has reshaped itself economically and socially. Cranes on the horizon are evidence that it may be undergoing another renaissance, driven by public and private infrastructure investment. The city is also a gateway to the Hunter – Australia’s most economically productive region.

These features make Newcastle ideally positioned to host an event focusing on the reality and opportunities of a transitioning second city.

Symposium topics and structure

The Second Cities Symposium: smaller and smarter will provide an international platform for airing and contesting leading contemporary thought in urban and regional planning and development. It will offer the opportunity to explore aspects of the important city-region nexus of economic flows and travel for work and recreation.

Drawing on local, national and global expertise, the symposium will provide a forum for analysing, debating and informing thinking on the evolution of second cities. It will feature internationally recognised experts, panel sessions, walking workshops, and ‘clinics’ to address ‘wicked problems’.

Sessions are designed to explore innovation in urban design, city and regional planning, economic development, technology development, infrastructure, innovation, liveability and wellbeing.

Timely – campaign for second cities policies

July marked the launch of a campaign for national ‘second cities’ policies, headed by the Committee for Geelong (CfG). CfG commissioned research into examples of good practice in the development of second cities in Australia and overseas. Their Winning from Second report highlights the opportunity for Geelong (with partners) to advocate at the state and national levels for second city policy frameworks.

The University of Newcastle has accepted an invitation from the Committee for Geelong to collaborate. Researchers will work with counterparts at Deakin and Wollongong universities to further develop the evidence base for the development of the policy framework. Newcastle City Council is supporting the framework development, pledging $25,000 toward the research report in a mayoral minute.

Advancing the conversation – paired forums

Greater Newcastle can also contribute to raising the profile of second cities at a state and national level through advocacy, and by facilitating national and international discussion. The symposium, Second Cities: smaller and smarter, being organised by the HRF Centre, is one example of work in this area.

The Centre is engaging with the Committee for Geelong and key local organisations, such as Hunter Water, AECOM, and Hunter Development Corporation, on the development of the symposium.

The symposium will lead into a related international conference, the Affordable Living in Sustainable Cities International Congress. The HRF Centre is cooperating with Congress organisers, Compass Housing, to co-promote these important and complementary events.

Make a difference

There are still sponsorship opportunities available for the Second Cities Symposium. To align your organisation with this strategic event, click on the link below to contact Kim Britton.

Stay tuned for more on the Second Cities symposium and the international congress.