Green light for funding policy

28 Aug 2019

Funding for projects to boost local business precincts is one step closer following the adoption of the Special Business Rate (SBR) Expenditure Policy.

Councillors voted last night to approve the new framework, which will guide the development of projects and events in the City Centre, Hamilton, Mayfield, Wallsend and New Lambton.

City of Newcastle Director Strategy and Engagement Brett Smith said the policy will pave the way for new activations to draw more people into local business areas.

“Newcastle is fortunate to have a range of unique business districts, each with its own special character and attractions,” he said. “This policy will help businesses harness the potential of their local precinct and promote its appeal to a wider visitor audience.”

Forty-six applications were received as part of the initial expression of interest (EOI), which invited businesses, not-for-profit organisations and community groups to apply for a share of $900,000 in funding.

A panel consistent with City of Newcastle’s current Economic Development grant panel, with the addition of an independent business representative, will assess applications against a range of eligibility criteria, including a requirement to demonstrate how the project will benefit businesses within the SBR precinct.

This process is expected to be completed by the end of September, followed by an announcement of the successful projects from this initial round of applications.

Funding of up to $500,000 for a single project or event in the Newcastle CBD is possible under the new program, with smaller grants of up to $15,000 available in Hamilton, Wallsend and New Lambton. Funds must be used for the promotion, beautification and development of the business precincts.

A second EOI will be held before the end of the year for the three smaller business precincts, with the aim of generating additional grassroots projects for further consideration.

To increase awareness of the program and provide support to applicants, City of Newcastle staff will host a series of information sessions across Hamilton, Wallsend and New Lambton.

The SBR Expenditure Policy was placed on public exhibition for a three-week period and feedback received from the community was carefully considered before the policy went before councillors last night.

This included amending the draft policy to clearly reflect the legislative requirement that SBR funds are to be spent within the precinct from which they are collected.

The SBR Policy also guides the allocation of funding to the relevant Business Improvement Associations (BIAs). In response to independent recommendations to improve the use of SBR funds, local agency Purser Corporate Communication has been engaged to provide a range of support services to the BIAs.

Purser Managing Director Meg Purser said that the new BIA model provided opportunity for businesses to support growth and economic opportunity across the city.

“The revised BIA structure has been designed to enable a panel of business people to develop and manage promotional and marketing strategies, as well as beautification projects that enhance their precinct, attract business and encourage visitation,” she said.