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  • intouch Magazine

Around the Chambers

In any given month, the ten council chambers that make up the greater Hunter region are busy with numerous projects to help make our communities better places to live, work and invest in. To highlight the outstanding work being carried out within our communities, this month, we launch a new, and regular column – Around the Chambers. For those who are frequent visitors to the intouch website platform, you'll know that we have become a hub of information about local council projects. Here's a snapshot of what's been going on at your local council this month.


City of Newcastle – Million-dollar boost for COVID-affected sectors Events, place activations and initiatives to re-energise Newcastle and boost the local economy are now eligible for a record $1.3 million in funding from the City. Applications opened on 23 July for a pool of $800,000 under the Special Business Program, which is on offer for the best projects that will promote, beautify and develop the City Centre and Darby Street.

Applications are also open across three additional funding programs to help activate public spaces, enhance community wellbeing and strengthen the city's reputation as a destination for tourism, business and events.

"Funding across a range of sponsorship and grant programs will support industries hardest hit by COVID-19 and ensure that as restrictions are lifted our city is ready," Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

"These funding programs are more critical than ever in the wake of COVID-19 and its unprecedented economic and social impacts on our community. While large events may not be possible right now, opening applications for funding allows organisers to get on with planning so that we can respond quickly when it's safe to do so.”

Applications for all funding areas are open until Wednesday 12 August and can be submitted online. Visit for further details and information on the individual funding programs.

City of Newcastle – Newcastle Art Gallery Expands City of Newcastle will shortly lodge an amended development application to further increase exhibition floor space for an expanded Newcastle Art Gallery. 

Late July, the Lord Mayor and Gallery Director Lauretta Morton presented the revised plans to Federal Senator Hollie Hughes and NSW Upper House Member Taylor Martin MLC, along with the Newcastle Art Gallery Working Party Chair Cathy Tate and the Board of the Art Gallery  Foundation. 

The expansion will see the 43-year-old building extended east along Darby Street and Queen Street with an eye-catching glass façade, a street-level café and retail shop, with overall exhibition space expanded by 250% which will include a dedicated display of the Gallery’s permanent collection. The additional exhibition space has in part been created by the removal of two shopfronts that were previously proposed in the approved DA. 

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the expanded Newcastle Art Gallery would further develop the Civic Precinct and provide a wide range of benefits to the community including increased exhibitions, events, educational programs and upgraded facilities, while Newcastle Art Gallery Director

Lauretta Morton said the redeveloped Gallery would be a major drawcard for the city. 

City of Newcastle has committed more than $10 million to the project and to date invested $3.6 million towards the Art Gallery expansion.

Lake Macquarie City – Awards to celebrate Lake Mac businesses Nominations open late last month for the Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards, which aim this year to celebrate and recognise all our amazing local businesses.

This year we’ve seen some unprecedented difficulties faced by many businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Local businesses, however, have shown incredible resilience, and the awards will provide an opportunity to support our business community, recognise innovation and celebrate some of the successes in 2019-20.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Cr Kay Fraser said this year has no doubt been particularly tough for many businesses and it is vital that we do what we can to support them.

“The business awards are a wonderful opportunity to provide some much-needed support to our local business owners. We want to shine a light on their success, despite COVID-19, and take the opportunity to encourage our community to get behind our local businesses,” said Cr Fraser.

In what will be a change to regular proceedings, this year’s awards will be announced via an online awards ceremony on 2 October 2020.

To recognise the impact of COVID-19, a new award category has been added that recognises Outstanding COVID-19 Business Adaptation for businesses that have shown specific adaption strategies and processes implemented in response to COVID-19.

Lake Macquarie City – New beginning for Rathmines heritage building A new stage has been set for performing arts in Lake Macquarie City with an upgrade to the historic Rathmines Theatre now complete.

Jointly funded by the NSW Government through its Stronger Countries Community Fund and Lake Macquarie City Council, the $3.3 million refurbishment included an internal fit-out, new bathrooms, new audio-visual equipment, disabled parking, an accessible ramp and landscaping, renewing the facility inside and out.

Cr Fraser said the project had given the historic building a new lease of life. “The refreshed facility will help to reinvigorate the cultural scene in western Lake Macquarie and will deliver significant economic benefits to the area,” Cr Fraser said.

“It is also home to the Heritage Centre, a place where our community can visit to learn about the history of Rathmines and Lake Macquarie City.”

Council’s Manager Arts, Culture and Tourism said the redeveloped venue provides an excellent opportunity for the arts community and an ideal tourism destination.

Port Stephens – Council and local business ponder What’s Next? The local business community joined Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer at a COVID safe event to get an update on Nelson Bay Next initiatives and the impact on the local economy.

One of the key initiatives, the Nelson Bay Public Domain Plan, was revealed in February 2018 when community consultation commenced to achieve the community’s vision for Nelson Bay over the next 20 years.

Port Stephens Mayor Palmer said it’s an exciting time for Nelson Bay with work already underway to prioritise people, create a greener town centre and provide more spaces for the community to enjoy.

“Since the Public Domain Plan works commenced, we’ve already seen several projects and improvements in infrastructure to link the foreshore and town centre together including Apex Park, Yacaaba Street and soon to be new amenities blocks,” Mayor Palmer said.

“There is plenty more in the works with the next stage of the plan to improve planning controls, funding for special events and activations as well as the introduction of smart parking.

Cessnock City – Council supports local pensioners Cessnock City Council is continuing to support local pensioners this financial year, providing them with an additional rebate.

Eligible pensioners in the Cessnock Local Government Area have been provided with an additional rebate of 1.6% of their combined rates and domestic waste management charge. This is on top of the up to $250 rebate provided for under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).

Cessnock City Mayor, Councillor Bob Pynsent said it’s fantastic to be able to offer an additional rebate to local pensioners.

“As a result of making sound financial decisions, it has enabled us to provide nearly 5000 pensioners with an additional rebate on top of the mandatory rebate. It will save some individuals up to $100. We must support those in our community who are more vulnerable and value such assistance.”

“Some Councils may not be in the position to offer the voluntary rebate; however, we are fortunate that through prudent decision making, we are in a position to do so.”

The rebate has already been applied to eligible pensioners as part of the rate levy run on 1 July 2020. For more information on this view Council’s Rebate Contribution on Pensioner Rates Policy or call Customer Relations Team on 4993 4100.

Maitland City – Annual Community Grants Program Council’s Annual Community Grants Program, which provides opportunities for local non-profit community-based organisations and groups to apply for funding to assist with projects that meet community needs and benefit residents in the community, is now open.

The program’s categories include Community Development, Cultural and Local Studies and Leisure and Recreation.

Projects across the Annual Community Grants categories might include educational, sports, arts, training, service provision or community projects, through to assistance with small scale equipment and activities that are available to community members.

“This program offers grants of up to $5,000 in matched funding to assist with projects in the Maitland LGA that foster partnerships, meet community needs and benefit the wider community,” said Council’s Coordinator Recreation and Community Planning Emily Livens.

“Initiatives including the inaugural Maitland Indie Festival, a street party and carols, and Hunter Telugu Badi’s community day received matched funding through this program in 2019/20, so I’m looking forward to receiving a variety of applications for consideration for 2020/21 funding.”

The program will allow applicants to develop initiatives which address an unmet need or seek funding for an innovative idea which will make a positive difference to the Maitland community.

Applications are now open until 31 August 2020. For more information, or to complete an application, visit

Pictured Top: Council Deputy CEO Tony Farrell, Bob Hawes (Hunter Business Chamber), Mayor Cr Kay Fraser, Peter Francis (Dantia), Simon Walsh (Allambi Care).

Pictured second: Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation Chair Suzie Galwey, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Senator Hollie Hughes and Taylor Martin MLC at Newcastle Art Gallery.

Pictured third: Rathmines Theatre.

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