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Around the Chambers – From Gardens to Major Events… the Hunter is Thriving!

The ten council chambers that make up the greater Hunter region continue to be busy with numerous projects to help make our communities better places to live, work, and invest in, especially in light of the global pandemic's impacts on our local lifestyle. Combined with local government authorities and business chambers, everyone is working to make our region a better place – and for that, as residents, we are incredibly grateful.

For those who are frequent visitors to the intouch website platform, you'll know that we have continued to be a hub of information about local council projects – there's something new to be found at each and every day. Here are just a few projects going on in your local area this month.


A New Frontier For City's Gardeners 

Green-thumbed residents are being given the opportunity to transform Newcastle's street verges into flourishing roadside gardens. The new Street Garden Initiative will be launched by City of Newcastle this summer, providing keen gardeners with the guidelines they need to develop attractive, safe and appropriate green spaces on the city's verges.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said the city's verges have long been limited to formal street tree plantings and complicated arrangements with footpaths, overhead and underground utilities. However, Novocastrians are increasingly looking to this roadside space as a location for new gardens.

"Newcastle is one of only a handful of local government areas across the nation that have tackled this issue to enable our community to assist in greening the city and enhancing our urban forest," Cr Clausen said.

"Whilst home during COVID, many within our community, have taken a new interest in our local parks and their own gardens, and our city has never looked better. Getting outside in the garden has proven health benefits, improves our local biodiversity and helps make our region more resilient to the effects of urban heat and storms.

"City of Newcastle's new Street Garden Initiative provides gardeners with clear guidance on what can be grown on their verge, how to go about approaching neighbours, and registration requirements before gardening commences.

"The City has worked through the challenging parts of this equation – such as mitigating impacts to utilities, road users and pedestrians – and the easy-to-follow guidelines ensure that gardening can be undertaken safely on the verge."

The best-practice suburban street garden program will begin with a 12-month trial to inform the rollout of a long-term initiative, which will add to the health and vitality of street trees planted in conjunction with the street gardens.

Comprehensive guidelines provide clear direction on every aspect of establishing a verge garden, including information on the positioning of gardens to allow for pedestrian access, a setback from the gutter for garbage truck access and to assist people accessing cars.

Appropriate plant species selections, including maximum plant height, a standard planter box design for those wishing to use the space to grow food and registration of gardeners to provide workplace health and safety information for those working near the road reserve also form part of the guidelines and application process.

Newcastle gardeners should keep an eye on City of Newcastle's website for further information, with the Street Garden trial to begin in December 2021.

IMAGE: Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen with an existing verge garden in New Lambton

Major Events the Ticket to Newcastle's Economic Success

Major events have broad support from residents and businesses, while each Supercars Newcastle 500 delivers an average of $36.2 million in economic output and 149 jobs, according to global accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY).

City of Newcastle (CN) engaged EY to evaluate community perceptions of major events with a statistically robust survey of 650 locals and businesses and to undertake an economic analysis of the Newcastle 500 as part of an ongoing review and planning process.

EY found more than two-thirds of residents and businesses believe the benefits of major events outweigh any negative impacts, along with strong support for CN's investment in attracting large events.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said events were a key part of delivering on City of Newcastle's vision of being a vibrant emerging global city. 

"Newcastle's position as an events city has been growing since the early days of Surfest in the 1980s, but it was only after delivering our first Newcastle 500 in 2017 that the rest of Australia has really taken notice," Cr Nelmes said.

"Research tells us that events deliver both an immediate and ongoing benefit for the community and economy, with greater visitation, investment and liveability outcomes. 

"Local tourism and accommodation providers that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 will be looking forward to and benefit from the economic stimulus provided by the Newcastle 500's return in March next year.

"Major events in Newcastle, be they motor racing, music festivals or world-class surfing, are here by design, not by chance. On the back of research like the EY reports, we'll continue working to build Newcastle's position as a global events city."

Business support for events is especially strong, with more than three-quarters saying the benefits of major events outweigh any disruptions, while 88 per cent believe major events are a benefit for businesses across the LGA. 

The benefits of major events are also enjoyed throughout the region, with a resounding 96 per cent of accommodation providers outside of Newcastle saying major events deliver benefits to the region as a whole.

When asked which major event had the most positive impact on turnover, the Newcastle 500 came out strongly on top for both local businesses and accommodation providers in the region. CN's annual budget for the Newcastle 500 (including a licence fee to Destination NSW and services provided to Supercars) is $1.6 million, which means for every $1 of ratepayers' money invested in the race, $22.60 is returned to the local economy.

Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said the return of major events to Newcastle was something to look forward to as the city emerges from COVID-19 restrictions. 

"Events bring a significant amount of economic stimulus, particularly through the visitor and hospitality sectors, which are those that are hurting the most right now because of COVID-19," Mr Hawes said.

"Confirmation from Supercars Australia that the Newcastle 500 would be returning in March 2022 has been very positive news for the Hunter's businesses and the research released by City of Newcastle matches the feedback we are receiving from many of our members." 

The Newcastle Major Events Evaluation and Economic Impact of the Newcastle 500 Supercars Event reports can be downloaded at

IMAGE: Warren Smith, Surfest Director, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Bob Hawes, CEO Business Hunter


'Humble Heroes' Recognised in New Lake Mac Campaign

A new outdoor photo portrait exhibition at Warners Bay honours some of the 'humble heroes' uniting the community and making Lake Macquarie a better place to live, work and play.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said the 15 people included in the Humble Heroes campaign came from all walks of life, from local business owners to lifeguards keeping people safe at the beach.

Photo portraits of each person included in the campaign will be on display from today until 8 November along the Warners Bay foreshore, with QR codes linking to their individual stories revealing what makes them tick.

"These quiet achievers represent thousands of people behind the scenes who make our community so strong and vibrant," Cr Fraser said.

"It's great to give recognition not only to high-profile community members but also to people quietly making a difference."

Lake Macquarie businesswoman Michelle Ebbin is among the people featured in the campaign.

Ms Ebbin founded Jettproof Clothing after her son was diagnosed with severe autism and sensory processing disorder at three years of age, creating 'wearable therapy' garments for children and adults.

Her company's products are now distributed worldwide, but Ms Ebbin's roots remain firmly planted in Lake Macquarie.

"I am so grateful to be recognised as a Humble Hero," Ms Ebbin said.

"This campaign celebrates the contributions not only of JettProof, but all Lake Mac businesses seeking to create change and improve outcomes for the community."

Caves Beach Lifeguard James McMorland, who is also included in the campaign, has lived beside the beach all his life.

The 26-year-old cited saving lives and making the beach a safer place for people of all ages among the best parts of his job.

"Growing up in Caves Beach, I was always at the beach every day, and I always wanted to give back to the community. Lifeguarding is a way to do that," he said.

Go to for more information about the Humble Heroes campaign and the exhibition on Warners Bay foreshore.

IMAGE: Mayor of Lake Macquarie Kay Fraser with Humble Heroes James McMorland and Michelle Ebbin


Port Stephens Council Finalist in Local Government NSW Awards

Strategic Planning Co-ordinator Brett Gardiner says the announcement acknowledges Council is an active regional leader and innovator in the planning and delivery of housing.

"Port Stephens Council is committed to actively addressing the regional housing affordability crisis and unlocking housing supply in Port Stephens.

"The 'Revamping Rezoning' project is a two-year planning reform initiative to support improved decision making and provide applicants with clearer guidance and quicker pathways to approval.

"The changes have reduced the backlog of rezonings by 60%, fast-tracked land release in our growth areas, and achieved greater transparency for applicants and our community," he said.

Development Services Group Manager Steven Peart says the project has also increased transparency for proponents, invited community participation earlier in the rezoning process and ultimately improved relationships with the development industry.

"In September, we presented our rezoning reforms at a Hunter Joint Organisation Regional Planning Industry workshop, identifying lessons arising from our reforms and potential opportunities for broader application in the Hunter region.

"This nomination is evidence that Port Stephens Council is an innovative and forward-thinking place to work – if you want to drive innovation, we want you," he said.

Winners will be announced at the Award ceremony on Thursday 4 November. More information, including the full list of finalists, can be found at

IMAGE: Housing redevelopment across Port Stephens


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