City Taskforce Update 15 May 2020

15 May 2020


The City Taskforce, led by City of Newcastle and chaired by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, held its third 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. City leaders focused their discussion on sharing aggregate data from each of the 17 organisations they represent to paint a clearer picture of COVID-19's impacts on Newcastle and the Hunter Region, as well as refining work streams to inform faster policy decisions. The Taskforce received the latest briefings and analysis on health, policy and economy with the national labour force data.

The Newcastle Response

City leaders endorsed a proposal by the City Taskforce Action Team to develop a fortnightly Newcastle Response. The 3-4-page brief, co-signed by each organisation on the Taskforce, will provide key local insights, data and intelligence that might not otherwise be readily accessible by State and Federal government decision-makers.

Each Response will deep-dive on particular themes, including:

  • International Student Advocacy;
  • Community Sector;
  • Global Trade Infrastructure, including International Relations;
  • City Mobility;
  • Training and Skills, including Redeployment Opportunities;
  • Arts Sector;
  • Recreation Sector;
  • Tourism Sector; and
  • Affordable Housing.

The Newcastle Response aims to identify gaps in existing State and Federal Government policy suites whilst highlighting the City’s ability to pilot new programs and approaches to COVID-19 challenges. The strategy will not only advocate for much-needed infrastructure but capture and share human stories and shared experiences.

The first letter will be sent on 1 June 2020; the second on 8 June 2020; the third on 15 June 2020; and fortnightly thereafter.

Advocacy for international students impacted by COVID-19

The Newcastle Response will initially focus on the community sector. This is expected to make further gains to the advocacy work the Taskforce has already undertaken, having jointly penned a letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, urging the Premier to consider the plight of international students in the COVID-19 climate and calling upon the NSW Government to provide urgent financial and in-kind assistance.

Further local collaborations

Taskforce leadership endorsed a skills and talent development work stream, noting the challenges faced across multiple industries in retraining, skills, talent retention and attractions. With the University of Newcastle introducing a number of short courses for people whose employment has been affected by COVID-19, an opportunity was identified to further explore areas that would provide the greatest benefit to Newcastle’s key industries and employers.

Reviving the visitor economy

Newcastle’s visitor economy has been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the community, along with accommodation and food services and arts and recreation. City leaders resolved to identify gaps and opportunities in Newcastle’s visitor economy landscape to increase brand awareness and capitalise on the city’s proximity to Australia’s second-largest domestic market, Sydney, as travel restrictions around COVID-19 ease.

Actions to explore included:

  • Collaborating with industry to develop new products and experiences; 
  • Developing skills and training packages; 
  • Developing marketing campaigns that redefine Newcastle’s identity as a leisure destination, with abundant lifestyle and amenity for those seeking a sea change; 
  • Supporting the development of events that leverage Newcastle’s natural strengths in the sports, arts and cultural sector to grow brand recognition; 
  • Investigating how Newcastle can leverage Australia’s position, alongside New Zealand, as one of the countries least impacted by COVID-19 due to its swift response and natural isolation, and how this could benefit the international student market; and 
  • Implementing programs to support local independent businesses through initiatives such as buy local campaigns. 

Strengthening international ties

City leaders unanimously agreed to show diplomacy to strengthen international trade and manufacturing relations where there was a mutual benefit to Newcastle, including to key sectors such as the international student market and visitor economy.


Find out more about the City Taskforce - Industry Representation.