City Taskforce Update 1 May 2020

01 May 2020


The City Taskforce, led by City of Newcastle and chaired by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, held its second meeting today via Zoom. The Taskforce was formed to develop a collaborative approach to the City’s response to COVID-19, from crisis to recovery and beyond. The Taskforce focused its discussion on work streams and resourcing to implement priority programs and initiatives aimed at getting the City back up and running and supporting the community’s most vulnerable.

City Taskforce work streams identified

Staff and industry leaders from each of the 17 organisations attended a digital workshop on 24 April following the inaugural City Taskforce meeting on 17 April. Priorities identified in the City‘s COVID-19 response included implementing programs that enable people, businesses and events to return to normal; transformative economic programs providing long-term strategic benefits; community resilience and social connection; as well as initiatives to address common issues faced across industries. 

As a result, the following work streams were proposed to, and unanimously supported by, the Taskforce:

  • An industry-specific response program;
  • Infrastructure advocacy program;
  • City data and analytics program;
  • NewSkill citywide upskilling program; and
  • A collaboration forum.

Additional concepts raised and backed by the Taskforce were a local insights and impacts platform; buy local program; a skills training and talent strategy; and a re-emergence program focused on events and activities and how these might take shape post-COVID-19.

Collegiate efforts to seek Government support for regional priorities

As well as being a mechanism for collaboration and sharing local insights, a major role of the Taskforce is to advocate for infrastructure priorities in the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Area, such as the diversification of the Port of Newcastle and the Newcastle Airport Expansion, which is critical to both the economic and social recovery of the City and region through job creation and increased visitor economy, noting job losses of 19,000 across the Hunter and a sharp decline in discretionary spending due to COVID-19 impacts.

The Taskforce resolved to support Newcastle Airport in lobbying the Federal Government for project funding as a joint signatory on correspondence.

Similar support was sought and agreed upon to assist international students of the University of Newcastle, both current and future. The Taskforce will co-sign a letter to the NSW Government, calling for humanitarian aid for those international students who have lost employment and do not qualify for support payments, whilst they are also unable to receive financial assistance from their families abroad as they too are impacted.

Building community resilience during the COVID-19 recovery phase

Leaders proposed the Taskforce could offer itself and the region as a pilot for relevant Family & Community Services programs focused on building community resilience, which is important in managing wellbeing as many navigate complex situations they have suddenly found themselves in.

This dovetails with the Lean In Newy initiative, which City of Newcastle is developing for launch in May. The smartphone app connects community organisations and not-for-profits in need of volunteers with those who want to do good, offering rewards and offers redeemable at local businesses. Opportunities are categorised by community service, neighbourhood help, social connections, and local business support.

Sharing the good news

Leaders recognised the Taskforce’s power as a united voice and determined to share case studies and good news stories of community resilience and connection with local media.

An opportunity was identified to involve the arts and cultural sector, critically affected by COVID-19, in those narratives, as well as engage with Indigenous Elders and communities as the source of cultural knowledge and storytelling. 

Find out more about the City Taskforce - Industry Representation.