ALP promises Newcastle an iconic skybridge, convention centre if elected

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By Peta Doherty

Originally published: Newcastle Herald online, October 7 2014, 10:30pm.

Labor says it will build Newcastle a world-class convention and exhibition centre and an ‘‘iconic’’ skybridge if it wins the March state election.

Labor leader John Robertson said the development, slated for Honeysuckle in Newcastle’s west end, would put Newcastle ‘‘in the race’’ for a share in the state’s $7billion convention industry.

Labor is promising to release government land at the corner of Honeysuckle Drive and the former Lee Wharf Road for a 4500-square-metre architecturally designed facility that will host up to 3500 people.

‘‘Labor is committed to the revitalisation of Newcastle,’’ Mr Robertson said.  ‘‘The convention centre will provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to further diversify the local economy.’’

Based on the convention centre in Cairns, where the Group of Twenty finance ministers’ meeting was held last month, a Newcastle convention centre could inject an annual $100million into the local economy, Mr Robertson said.

The construction phase would generate 3000 jobs while the conference centre would create 1700 ongoing local positions, he said.

A design chosen through an international competition would be used for the skybridge, which would connect the proposed conference centre with Hunter Street in the city’s west end.

Mr Robertson said the footbridge, which he likened to Helix Bridge in Singapore and BP Bridge in Chicago, would be a tourist attraction itself.

Mr Robertson admitted a similar idea for a convention centre at Honeysuckle had been put forward by former MP Jodi McKay ahead of the 2011 election.

But he promised a Labor government would ‘‘immediately’’ start work on the planning phase, to which it had allocated $5million of the proceeds of the sale of the Port of Newcastle.

The Minister for Transport and the Hunter, Gladys Berejiklian, said Labor was all talk and no action.

“This is the same old Labor – another empty promise with no plan on how they’ll deliver and pay for it,’’  Ms Berejiklian said.

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan said she looked forward to seeing more detail. The chamber was already working on a business case for a convention centre at the location pinpointed by Labor, Ms Keegan said.

The chamber plans to have its feasibility study ready by the  election.

Originally published as: ALP promises Newcastle an iconic skybridge, convention centre if elected 

NSW Labor's Newcastle Convention Centre