Forget Sydney - Newcastle the next big thing

STEP aside Sydney.

While you’ve been busily sealing your spot as one of the most expensive cities in the world, a couple of hours up the road, Newcastle has become the next big thing.

The harbourside city — once with its roots firmly in coal and steel — is reinventing itself.

Huge investments in transport, the rejuvenation of the city foreshore, a revitalised central business district, an upsized university and a $6.5 billion investment from the NSW Government make it the new boom town.

“Newcastle is on the cusp of transitioning from a great regional city to an emerging global city and we are doing our bit as a council to attract investment, jobs and opportunity,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes told

While buyers’ hopes of buying into an out-of-control Sydney property market are heading further south, property experts say savvy buyers are heading north.

And with the City of Newcastle Council projecting a population growth of about 33 per cent by 2036, while property prices are on the rise, they’re a viable option for cash-strapped Sydney buyers — especially in the face of the news that in Sydney, there are more houses worth more than $2 million than there are under $600,000.

Along with a median house price of $530,000, there is significant interest from investors.

“Construction is booming in Newcastle after the value of approved developments soared 70 per cent last year to take the total green-lighted to more than $3 billion over the past five years,” Ms Nelmes explained.

“Another bumper 12 months is expected to follow, with $106 million in building go-aheads in the first month of the financial year and $270 million in applications”.

Kevin Mason, a senior buyers advocate with Propertybuyer, knows why.

“I was born and raised in Nelson Bay, grew up and studied around Port Stephens and Newcastle, and now live between here and the Sydney CBD,” Mr Mason wrote in a blog post about why Newcastle is the next big thing.

“It means I get the best of both worlds — the city living that Sydney offers as well as the state-of-the-art yet more relaxed lifestyle of Newcastle.

“The city used to be an industrial powerhouse, but it is now transforming on a number of fronts, becoming one of the most vital culture, business and heritage hubs in New South Wales.”


As well as hefty investment and growth in education, Newcastle is capitalising on its tourist potential — bring more jobs and dollars into the region — and thanks to the growing popularity of cruising, that’s set to continue.

“By the end of 2018, we’re going to see a new $13 million cruise ship terminal completed at Carrington. As Sydney reaches its capacity for cruise ships, this should significantly increase the existing $11 million that Newcastle gathers annually from cruise tourism,” Mr Mason says.

Those dollars will add to an already heaving trade in coal out of the Port of Newcastle.

“The vast majority of the Port of Newcastle’s business is coal. With more than $9 billion invested in current expansions, our capacity for this shipping should triple within just a few years. BHP, Centennial, Felix and Port Waratah Coal Services have all invested in various projects,” Mr Mason said.


There’s been a huge investment in education in the past few years, with the University of Newcastle spreading its wings and its dollars.

First up this year will be the official opening of the $95 million New Space campus bringing students into the city, further boosting, and benefiting from, investment in the CBD.

The university is one of the area’s biggest employers, and the expansion, and another planned development at another location near the harbour foreshore starting in 2018 will ultimately see student numbers swell by 3000, up from the current 3500.

“Alongside New Space ... expansions to the University of Newcastle and $3.8 million in federal funding for the Hunter TAFE campus, Newcastle is emerging as one of the brightest spots in the country for tertiary education in almost every field,” Mr Mason says.

In addition to education, Ms Nelmes says Newcastle is focused on innovation.

“We are one of the few cities in Australia with a CBD Digital Precinct where anyone can access our free high speed public Wi-Fi,” she says.

She also said a key project was the development of small business hub, which matches start-ups with vacant spaces to “activate the city”.


New light rail projects, a new public transport system for Newcastle which will link bus, ferry and light rail timetables are forecast to boost the local economy by $2.5 billion.

The $500 million new light rail and transport interchange development is expected to be completed in 2019.

Tens of millions of dollars are also being spent on road projects in and around Newcastle.

“The Hunter Expressway, Tourle Street and Mayfield improvements, as well as an inner-city bypass, all boost transport options and promote growth at a local level,” Mr Mason says.

“This kind of infrastructure means it only takes 20-25 minutes to drive anywhere around Newcastle and Lake Macquarie — something you just can’t get in the Sydney CBD.

“The breadth of development in the pipeline is incredible, and it’s only just at the start of its ascendancies. We’re only two years into the best ever decade for infrastructure spending, and the ripple effect of Sydney is truly taking hold.”