Charlestown not our CBD: Lake Macquarie councillors not ready to title city's main commercial hub

KEY HUB: Lake Macquarie council has voted down a joint-councillor motion to have Charlestown identified as the city's central business district. A staff report due next June will identify potential CBD sites, including Charlestown.
KEY HUB: Lake Macquarie council has voted down a joint-councillor motion to have Charlestown identified as the city's central business district. A staff report due next June will identify potential CBD sites, including Charlestown.

A proposal to have Charlestown recognised as Lake Macquarie's central business district has failed to gain the full the support of council.

The age-old debate was reignited at a recent ordinary meeting when a notice of motion was put forward calling for the suburb's commercial area to be formally titled as the city's primary CBD.

Councillors Jason Pauling, Kevin Baker and Nick Jones (LIB), along with Adam Shultz (ALP), moved the motion but it was voted down 7-5. Only Cr Colin Grigg (IND) jumped on board.

The councillors in favour argued Charlestown was already providing services and jobs in sectors typically seen in CBDs, such as finance and insurance, health care, public sector administration, and information technology.

They also argued the commercial area displayed the characteristics of a CBD, suggesting it was a regional focal point; provided social, cultural and entertainment opportunities; had government buildings; was a transport node; and had a higher density of people living and working in the area.

"We have not been a business city, we have been a retirement city," Cr Pauling said.

"That's why we've got an ageing population, why we have workforce issues and why young people have to leave.

"Charlestown is our CBD, let's call it what it is and start to get a plan together."

Cr Pauling said Charlestown was labelled 'the CBD of Lake Macquarie' in a 2008/09 council planning document, a reference that continued in marketing, but not across the board.

Cr Adam Shultz said declaring it a CBD would help attract jobs, which the council needed to boost as 40 per cent of working residents leave the city for work.

The motion noted Charlestown would be the "primary" CBD until another emerged.

Cr Pauling said that was because the "western side of the lake" would eventually "eclipse it".

"There are events that will occur in the next decade that will start to set the foundation, but right now Charlestown is, and will continue to remain, our CBD," he said.

Councillors opposed to the proposal acknowledged Charlestown was a key commercial hub but believed there was little point in declaring it a CBD if another site was to soon emerge.

Cr John Gilbert said the city was better off pursuing a built-from-scratch CBD in Boolaroo.

He said it had the advantage of a train line, something which Charlestown would likely "never have".

Cr Christine Buckley said Charlestown's growth was limited by its layout, available space and infrastructure.

Cr Luke Cubis said council should hold off until a staff report investigating possible CBD sites returns next June.