Renew Australia guru in Nowra

A RECENT visit by urban renewal expert Marcus Westbury has inspired community members to revitalise Nowra.

Mr Westbury’s ‘Renew Australia’ is based on his Newcastle model which was responsible for the city’s transformation to a top 10 destination in the world, as voted by Lonely Planet.

Mr Westbury said locals and council members seemed receptive at last  Wednesday night’s meeting.

“I don’t think Nowra is as bad as Newcastle was – it had reached crisis point,” Mr Westbury said.

“Nowra doesn’t have the physical structure, which is a challenge in general, but the big challenge is the retail sector which is in an ongoing downturn.

“That is a big factor in the main street where business is struggling with competition from shopping centres.”

He said the key to maintaining the dynamic of a town was to emphasise its originality.

“If you don’t know a town well and you drive through and see the same shops and brands, there is little motivation for you to stop,” he said.

“The question for locals to put forward is about their own identity - what are you doing that’s original? Why should I stop here to spend an hour to go shopping?

“I think that’s a challenge for Nowra, but it’s not the worst example.”

Mr Westbury said if Nowra was to improve in the same way Newcastle did and maintain that momentum, it was vital council was proactive in working with community members and indicating any problems.

“There seems to be a stack of ideas from the community, but at the moment they are not acting on them. That can be from a stack of problems including expense,” he said.

“For a long-term commitment, it requires council and the community to work as a whole in making those barriers low to make it easy to create a healthy social and economic dynamic.”

Shoalhaven City Council strategic planning manager Gordon Clark said for this project concept to work for Nowra it needed to be led by the community.

“Following on from Marcus’s visit, council will form its own opinion of what level of support it is willing to give to the concept,” he said.

“For it to succeed it needs to be mostly driven by the community, not so much the state government and council. They may very well support it but whether or not they are to lead it is another question.

“This needs to be driven from a grass roots level.”

Shoalhaven Business Chamber president Warren Seccombe said in terms of business, this concept would mean ongoing discussions with shop owners about lowering costs and making rental opportunities for young entrepreneurs more obtainable.

“I think the whole idea to get people into the CBD is a good thing,” Mr Seccombe said.

“We’ll be getting together in the next week or so to discuss this with a few people and shop owners to see what we can do.

“What we can do is encourage and assist those people who have fresh ideas in any way we can.”

“If it [the renewal project] doesn’t happen quickly, it won’t happen.”

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