Newcastle – Commercial Real Estate – Friends Are Not Always Friends

Business is tough enough in this Region and when we do get progressive people looking to put money into a project they should be embraced and welcomed as each enterprise creates jobs. Instead those looking to invest in enterprises (I’m talking of developments that include businesses not just apartments) are treated with disdain through planning
hurdles. If that’s not bad enough we have small but well trained groups of advocates parading, claiming to be “The Friends of…..” this and that. They are fighters for
their cause, a cause of their own choosing, but what will be the consequence of their actions?

The answer is jobs! Jobs that this Region needs, not necessarily to grow, but to sustain itself against a rapidly ageing population. With our dependency ratio currently sitting at 56% and expected to rise to 73% by 2031 we need young vibrant people flowing into the region. The problem is these people follow jobs. According to the grandfather of environmentalism Dr. David Suzuki, full employment is one of our fundamental social environmental needs, that requires fulfilling along with the natural environment.

Accordingly full employment in the western world can vary between 2% and 6.4%. The
lower need apply to Australia where if you work for just 1 hour in the measuring week you are considered employed.


So when you hear the friends of King Edward Park have blocked the development of a function centre, café and lookout. What you’re really hearing is the 8 organisers, some of whom don’t live in the region or pay rates in the city and their 175 other Facebook friends, have stopped jobs. Not just here but downstream jobs through suppliers of services and money spent through wages. Look at the Merewether Surf House. How many jobs have been created, how many people enjoy the facility and how many millions of dollars are turned through the establishment and into the community? Jobs that are soft on the natural environment yet high on the social environment.

Germany realises the value and spending capacity of young vibrant people. Staring down the barrel of a Japan style recession due to their aging population retiring and becoming unproductive, the German Government is opening its arms to 800,000 to 1,000,000 young relatively healthy people from the war torn Middle East to inject into their economy. Our Region is not even on the agenda for Australia’s share of refugees, why? JOBS! We are losing jobs faster than creating them.

Like the (8) Friends of King Edward Park and their legal sponsor, the University of Newcastle. That’s right – the University of Newcastle Legal Centre mounted the legal challenge on behalf of the “friends”.  The same University that hasn’t said they are really budgeting on 8,000 students and staff not 5,000 to fight over the (5) car parks in their new inner-city campus.  As a previous sponsor of the University I find that totally hypocritical. Fight to block one development while turning a blind eye to any social obligation for the mayhem they will cause to the business houses and residents of the inner-city. The coming of the University to the city into a building that makes a statement for our time is wonderfully progressive so why impede others looking to do the same.

Like the Friends of King Edward Park, the Friend of Tumblebee, not friends, because I can only find one, has managed to cost a developer Hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal cost and delays by engaging another sponsor, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO). All this is in an area that has over 20% youth unemployment, Kurri Kurri!

The question has to be asked, would these so called friends really be friends if they had to put their hands into their own pockets and mount the challenges themselves? Would we see Local Government Councillors and their town planners spending money more wisely
on Land and Environment Court actions if they became personally liable for ill-considered
matters? Why does it take a Land and Environment Court judge 14 months to hand down a decision after final hearings as it did in King Edward Park and is currently underway in Kurri Kurri?

We can benefit from young, vibrant, educated, hardworking people no matter where they are from but we have to create jobs to fix our social environment first. So the very act of so called friends in saving something has impacts far greater than their little cause.

STEVE DICK
Director

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