Declan Clausen - Deputy Lord Mayor City of Newcastle


Q & A with Declan Clausen, Deputy Lord Mayor of City of Newcastle

Deputy Lord Mayor, Declan Clausen views the Landing Pad in the innovation precinct as a potent symbol of Newcastle’s evolving and exciting future. At the age of 25, Cr Clausen became Newcastle’s youngest ever Deputy Lord Mayor, when he was elected in 2017. And while Declan could have used his first-class master’s in science from Oxford to work anywhere in the world, he chose to return to Newcastle, to make a difference to the city he loves.

On the eve of the official opening of the award-winning Q building (where the Landing Pad and I2N are housed), I sat down in the foyer, with Declan Clausen, to find out why he’s so optimistic and passionate about the future of Newcastle.

Q: The Landing Pad is a City of Newcastle initiative within the University of Newcastle’s 12N innovation precinct. What would you say to a start-up or skilled professional thinking of relocating to Newcastle to base themselves at the Landing Pad?

Cr Clausen: The Landing Pad is a welcoming and growing community of like-minded entrepreneurs who make it easier to start a new business by supporting innovative ideas to scale and grow. During Covid we saw a lot of people moving from the capitals to second cities like Newcastle for better economic and lifestyle opportunities. Now is an especially good time to join the Landing Pad because the City of Newcastle is offering eligible candidates three-months free membership to access the world class co-working space in a premium location with excellent office facilities, as well as networking support and access to University researchers and collaboration.

Q: Since BHP closed in 1999, Newcastle has been transitioning to a more diverse economy. What else is the City of Newcastle doing to support that transition?

Cr Clausen: The City of Newcastle offers a comprehensive NewSkills program to upskill individuals and help future-proof local businesses. There is also the Accelerator program for start-ups and the Business Centre to help business owners find resources from accountants to marketing ideas to help them grow.

Q: You studied Sustainable Urban Development at Oxford University and have a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering from Newcastle Uni – how have those skills influenced your role at the Council?

Cr Clausen: Sustainability drives much of what we do at the City of Newcastle. For example, in January 2020, Newcastle became the first council in NSW to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy from the Summerhill Solar Farm The University of Newcastle followed six months later and is now also run entirely on clean energy. Also, the University of Newcastle’s Q building, where we’re sitting, is the first in regional NSW to be awarded an internationally recognised 6-star Green Star ‘Design and as Built’ rating.

Q: The area in and around Newcastle is transitioning rapidly. How will people find new jobs when industries diversify?

Cr Clausen: Newcastle is rapidly diversifying - there are amazing opportunities around our catalyst sites at the port, airport, John Hunter Hospital and University of Newcastle. Newcastle will remain a Powerhouse of NSW, with a future focused on clean energy. As an example, the Hunter Renewable Energy Zone will develop solar, wind and pumped-hydro generators to not only produce clean energy but also create an estimated 30,000 new jobs in the area. The private sector has pledged to invest almost $130 billion into these projects.

Q: How much has Newcastle changed since you graduated from Lambton High in 2010?

Cr Clausen: It’s changed dramatically. For a start, the University didn’t have a strong presence in the inner-city and the NewSpace and Q Building didn’t exist.

The year after I finished school, the David Jones department store closed in Hunter Street and a lot of nearby businesses followed suit. Fast forward a decade and now the old DJ’s site is the location of the latest QT Hotel and its roof terrace bar is the hottest place to be after dark. The developer, Sam Arnaout of Iris Capital is investing $880m in building projects in and around the Hunter St Mall..

Investment in our CBD has helped re-invigorated business confidence. As a Council, we have also invested in smart city infrastructure to make life easier for residents, businesses, and visitors.

Newcastle is now attracting lots of families and millennials, drawn to our enviable lifestyle. You’re only ever 20 minutes away from the office, beach, or bushland here.

Some Novocastrians leave in their early 20s, but many come back with their young families in their 30s. And now, with our innovation hub and Landing Pad programs, university graduates, innovators and entrepreneurs need never leave at all.

We are inviting you to join our innovation community in Newcastle, for free!

We are offering domestic and international innovators a three-month free membership at the Landing Pad, until June 2023.

The membership includes hot desk passes and/or a two person office space with access to the maker space, seminar and event spaces, various software platforms such as Adobe and Office 365, commercial business address and more. Explore facilities and membership options here.