The newly appointed CEO of the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation, Mr Michael Cassel, said he was determined to work closely with Central Coast Council and to deliver the “built form outcomes” from the Gosford City Urban Design and Implementation Framework (UDIF).
“The Central Coast Regional Development Corporation’s mandate is to work with people collectively to achieve a revitalised Gosford and to continue with the great things that are going on at Kariong,” Mr Cassel said. Mr Cassel has been CEO of the Hunter Development Corporation since December, 2016. “Before that, I had been in charge of the Revitalising Newcastle program, which was being run by Urban Growth, part of the NSW Government Development Corp,” he said. “They have now split the Revitalising Newcastle organisation and people have come across to the Hunter Development Corporation.” According to Mr Cassel, the experience of revitalising Newcastle meant: “I’ve got a little bit of grey hair, but to me, it is all about getting everybody aligned.
“Everyone has aspirations for their city. “Trying to figure out what they look like and the compromises people are willing to take to achieve those aspirations are the interesting part. “I don’t believe I will ever get 100 per cent consensus, but getting the majority of people on board is the important thing.” Mr Cassel described his relationship with Newcastle Council as “great”. “We talk to them continually. “The outcomes are too important for us not to work together and deal with those things we are not quite aligned on,” he said. “The Council’s role is pretty clear and I understand they are newly formed, and that was the formation of a couple of councils,” Mr Cassel said when asked to explain the roles and responsibilities of CCRDC, Central Coast Council and the Coordinator General. “The role of the Coordinator General is to, I guess, deal with those barriers in regards to planning and things of that nature,” he said.
“There needs to be a clear delineation between what CCRDC does and the planning approvals that go with that, and we will work with Council to facilitate those. “We get involved to make sure either the private market or government deliver the built form outcomes. “The CCRDC is formed by a piece of legislation called the Growth Centres Act, and its purpose is to use government land holdings and other land available to bring about growth.” The Minister for Planning, Mr Anthony Roberts, when announcing Mr Cassel’s appointment to CCRDC, said the corporation had been “repurposed” to focus on Gosford’s revitalisation. When asked what CCRDC’s new brief was, Mr Cassel said: “It is whatever the corporation has been doing to date, that will continue. “The second component is that we work very closely with all government agencies to try to resolve how to utilise their value in delivering for Gosford, and then we work with agencies to figure out how that happens. “Without trying to comment on what people have done previously, the role, as I see it, is about actually getting things to happen on the ground. “There has been some tremendous work done on planning schemes and so on, but the challenge has been the commerciality. “There has been a focus on one big win, instead of multiple little wins.
“The city could use getting a bit of confidence from a few small wins. “Where we can, we will seek to have the private market come in and assist with the things we develop.” Whether or not the NSW Government will fund Gosford’s revitalisation, and to what sum of money if they do, is yet to be determined. “Overall our funding envelope in Newcastle, because the revitalisation included heavy rail truncation and light rail, was a total of $650m,” he said. “My first role is to probably understand the lay of the land and understand where Council thinks the first investment should go, and work with government around how much funding will be needed to deliver on Kibble Park.” As for the lessons he had learned during the Newcastle revitalisation: “One of the first lessons we did learn early on, was that the community was sceptical and we needed to earn their trust. “We did that by creating some great local places and rolling events, so people could get a feel for what it was like to come back into the city.
“Events were made available for kids on school holidays, so people could feel that when they lived through the disruption of light rail construction and those other things, they could feel what it would be like when those things were completed. “Change is hard and we will spend a lot of time working around communications at all levels, from the grass roots into the community, all the way up to the key decision makers.” Coast Community News asked Mr Cassel whether his appointment meant the Central Coast was being absorbed into the Hunter Regional Development Corporation. He said: “Both businesses are about projects, so one could say what I am doing is just running a bigger business. “I think it is important that both businesses maintain their identity.” However, he said, the Hunter Regional Development Corporation would share its experience and resources with the Coast.
“The team there will be predominantly people who are either already employed by CCRDC or people from the area. “I think it is important that as we work through these things, there are always local voices in our team, so I wouldn’t see it that you are not getting your own corporation. “I will spend more time on CCRDC, at least in the early period. “I think the CCRDC team have done a great job on how they have communicated. “I am very focused on over communicating the importance of what value the organisation is adding to the community, so you will see a ramped up level of communication.” Mr Cassel said he was aiming to have a meeting with Central Coast Councillors during the first week of his appointment to the new role. “It is important that I meet the mayor first and follow her lead on how we will work together,” he said.
Source: Interview, Apr 10 Michael Cassel, Central Coast Regional Development Corporation Jackie Pearson, journalist