Monday, 5 August, 2019

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Lucy Turnbull AO, Chief Commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission, spoke on collaboration and influence at the HRF Centre’s economic breakfast in July.

Ms Turnbull drew insights from her diverse career. She left a legal practice in 1999 to move into local government, becoming Sydney’s first female Lord Mayor in 2003-04. She subsequently became Chair of the Committee for Sydney and the Greater Sydney Commission in 2015. She spoke about the value of such bodies to foster collaboration.

“Organisations like the Committee for Sydney, and the Committee for the Hunter, have a huge role to play in championing and articulating what is important for the city or the region,” she stated.

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 said.

The Committee for Sydney strongly encouraged founding of the Greater Sydney Commission. The Commission, established by NSW Minister for Planning Rob Stokes in 2015, is responsible for alignment in strategic planning and infrastructure development in Greater Sydney. It brings together government departments and agencies with a focus on collaboration and engagement.

“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 about 90,000 times, and 750,000 people were reached through social media.”

Engagement was necessary to the development of health and education precincts, which Ms Turnbull noted are critically important to any city or region. The Westmead health and education precinct, for instance, will attract more than $3.4 billion in government and private investment over next 10 years. It has the potential to increase the workforce from 18,000 to 50,000 by 2036. The number of students is also expected to grow, from 2,000 in 2016 to 9,000 by 2036.

She extrapolated what the approaches developed in Greater Sydney might mean for Greater Newcastle. Ms Turnbull said that the bones are in place already for the growth of our health, education and innovation precincts. She cited the John Hunter Hospital campus and the University of Newcastle as key assets for Greater Newcastle.

“It will only be brought to its full potential with a lot of collaboration, across health and education, and with all of the people who will drive innovation and the services that make that possible,” she said.

That includes having good local restaurants, walkways and cycle ways. Walkability and connectivity are critical to liveability, Ms Turnbull said. They also help in attracting and retaining talented people.

“Do not underestimate the importance of lifestyle, which you have in great abundance,” Ms Turnbull said. “As an urbanist, I am amazed by the transformation of Newcastle’s urban precinct with the light rail. Removing the heavy rail, which divided the CBD from the river and the harbour, has created a visual transformation.”

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 stated. It has the potential to leverage these assets through 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 explained. “It is only through collaboration, conversation and engagement that you develop a really good visitor economy and a dynamic and diversified economy.”