MEETING OF THE CITY TASKFORCE
The City Taskforce, a collaboration of 17 leading organisations and employers, chaired by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes City of Newcastle, held its fourth 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 the first edition of The Newcastle Response, which highlights the challenges facing the community sector, as well as the forecasted impacts of the end of Government supplements, such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper, legislated to 27 September 2020. The Taskforce was also briefed on the Affected Industries Roundtable, facilitated by City of Newcastle on 4 June 2020, at which representatives from industries such as retail and hospitality, tourism, live music and arts and culture shared their experiences and local insights.
The Newcastle Response – Community Sector
City leaders endorsed the first Newcastle Response, forging their support as joint signatories to this powerful advocacy framework. The document presents case studies of the hardship and disadvantage Novocastrians have faced as a result of COVID-19, particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly and temporary visa holders, with many turning to emergency relief services for the first time during the COVID-19 crisis. The community sector is bracing for further demand if Federal Government social security payments fall back to an inadequate level. The Newcastle Response calls upon State and Federal decision-makers, to whom it is addressed, to develop policy measures that support the financial sustainability of the community sector and establish dedicated engagement with First Nations and disability organisations.
In addition to The Newcastle Response being circulated to State and Federal decision-makers, Director Regional NSW, Ms Alison McGaffin, will act as a conduit between the City Taskforce and State Government Taskforces to facilitate discussions and form recommendations.
Future issues of The Newcastle Response will cover the tourism sector, affordable housing, arts sector, mental health and international student advocacy. An immediate need to support the containerisation work of the Port, and its subsequent impact on other sectors across the city, was also identified.
Affected Industries Roundtable
Among the industries that participated in City of Newcastle’s Affected Industries Roundtable, including retail and hospitality, hotels, live music, tourism, arts and culture, and Business Improvement Associations, there was a strong appetite to use the City Taskforce’s joint advocacy as a springboard for collaboration and policy action.
City leaders heard how these industries expressed concerns for what lay beyond September, when support measures end. For example, licensed venues, if still unable to operate at full capacity by then, anticipate a second jobs crisis, which would have a flow-on effect to local supply chains. With the retail and hospitality industry being a large employer of young people in the region, and the youth unemployment rate for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie climbing to 18.7% as a direct result of the pandemic, this has the potential to impact young workers at the start of their careers for years to come.
Industry Response Program
City leaders received an update on City of Newcastle’s Industry Response Program, which opened today. Expressions of interest are being sought from industry groups, businesses, community organisations and collaboratives for funding that will enable city-shaping outcomes that target the hardest-hit industries and population groups.
The University of Newcastle and the Hunter Business Chamber, both of which have representatives on the City Taskforce in Professor Alex Zelinsky and Mr Bob Hawes, have volunteered to sit on the Assessment Panel.
Infrastructure remains a priority
Infrastructure projects remain a key priority and focus of the Taskforce, not only in terms of job retention, but also job creation. Collective support exists for a large and diverse range of infrastructure projects across the City, as indicated in The Newcastle Response. This includes the Newcastle Airport expansion, complementing the recent announcement of a Special Activation Precinct at Williamtown; Newcastle Art Gallery expansion; as well as the containerisation of the Port of Newcastle to unlock trade and retail opportunities.
Find out more about the City Taskforce - Industry Representation.