The Newcastle metropolitan area is the second most populated area in the state of New South Wales and includes most of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Local Government Areas. It is the hub of the Greater Newcastle area which includes most parts of the Local Government Areas of City of Newcastle, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Cessnock, City of Maitland and Port Stephens Council.
Situated NNE of Sydney, at the mouth of the Hunter River, it is the predominant city within the Hunter Region. Famous for its coal, Newcastle is the largest coal export harbour in the world, exporting 80.2 million tonnes of coal worth AUD $5.3 billion in 2005-2006. Beyond the city the Hunter Region boasts massive coal deposits.
While returning he named the river after New South Wales' Governor, John Hunter. Shortland also returned with reports of the deep-water port and abundant coal in the area. Over the next two years, coal mined from the area was the New South Wales colony's first export.
Newcastle gained a reputation as a "hellhole" as it was a place where the most dangerous convicts were sent to dig in the coal mines as harsh punishment for their crimes.
By the turn of the century the mouth of the Hunter River was being visited by diverse groups of men, including coal hewers, timber-cutters, and more escaped convicts. Philip Gidley King, Governor of New South Wales from 1800, decided on a more positive approach to exploit the now obvious natural resources of the Hunter Valley.
In 1801, a convict camp called King's Town (named after Governor King) was established to mine the coal and cut timber. In the same year, the first shipment of coal was dispatched to Sydney. This settlement closed less than a year later.
A settlement was again attempted in 1804 as a place of secondary punishment for unruly convicts. The settlement was named Coal River, also Kingstown and then re-named Newcastle, after England's famous coal port. The name first appeared by the commission issued by Governor King on 15 March 1804 to Lieut. Charles Menzies of the Royal Marines, appointing him superintendent of the new settlement.
The new settlement comprising convicts and a military guard, arrived at the Hunter River on 27 March 1804, in three ships, the Lady Nelson, the Resource and the James. The convicts were rebels from the 1804 Castle Hill convict rebellion.
The link with Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, its namesake and also from whence many of the 19th century coal miners came, is still obvious in some of the place-names - such as Jesmond, Hexham, Wickham, Wallsend and Gateshead. Morpeth, New South Wales is a similar distance north of Newcastle as Morpeth, Northumberland is north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
In 1816, the oldest public school in Australia was built in East Newcastle.
Newcastle remained a penal settlement until 1822 when the settlement was opened up to farming. During its time as a penal colony the military rule was harsh, especially at Limeburners' Bay, on the inner side of Stockton peninsula, where convicts were sent to burn oyster shells for making lime.
Newcastle's last convicts were sent to Port Macquarie in 1823.
The formation during the nineteenth century of the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company saw the establishment of regular steamship services from Morpeth and Newcastle with Sydney. The company had a fleet of freighters as well as several fast passenger vessels, including the PS Newcastle and the PS Namoi. The latter vessel's first-class cabins had the latest facilities and overnight passage to Sydney, where passengers would arrive fresh for the new day, was considered preferable to the long and arduous railway journey right into the inter-war period.
Because of the coal supply, small ships plied between Newcastle and Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, carrying coal to gas works and bunkers for shipping, and railways. These were commonly known as "sixty-milers" based on the nautical journey between Newcastle and Sydney, and continued in service until recent times.
In the early hours of 8 June 1942, the Japanese submarine I-21 briefly shelled Newcastle. Among the areas hit within the city were dockyards, the steel works, Parnell Place in the city's now affluent East End, the breakwall and Art Deco ocean baths. There were no casualties in the attack and damage was minimal.
Coal mining began in earnest in the 1830s, with collieries working close to the city itself and others within a radius. Most of Newcastle's principal coal mines (Stockton, Tighes Hill, Carrington, the Australian Agricultural Company, the Newcastle Coal Mining company's big collieries at Merewether (includes the Glebe), Wallsend, and the Waratah collieries), had all closed by the early 1960s, being steadily replaced over the previous four decades by the larger coal mining activities further inland at places such as Kurri Kurri and Cessnock.
About 1850, a major copper smelting works was established at Burwood, near Merewether. The English and Australian Copper Company built another substantial works at Broadmeadow circa 1890, and in that decade a zinc smelter was built inland, by Cockle Creek.
The largest factory of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere was constructed in 1885, on a site between the suburbs of Tighes Hill and Port Waratah, by Charles Upfold, from London, for his Sydney Soap and Candle Company, to replace a smaller factory in Wickham. Their soap products won 17 medals at International Exhibitions, and at the Sydney International Exhibition they won a bronze medal "against all-comers from every part of the world", the only first prize awarded for soap and candles. Following World War I the company was sold to Messrs Lever & Kitchen (today Lever Bros), and the factory closed in the mid-1930s.
In 1911, BHP chose the city as the site for its steelworks due to the abundance of coal. In 1915, the BHP steelworks opened, beginning a period of some 80 years dominating the steel works and heavy industry. As Mayfield and the suburbs surrounding the steelworks declined in popularity because of pollution, the steelworks thrived, becoming the region's largest employer.
In 1999, the steelworks closed after 84 years operation and had employed about 50,000 in its existence, many for decades.
On 8 June 2007 the Hunter and Central Coast regions were battered by fierce storms which resulted in extensive flooding throughout the areas. Nine people eventually lost their lives in what was described as being the worst series of storms to hit New South Wales in 30 years.
During the early stages of the storms the long bulk carrier ship, MV Pasha Bulker, ran aground at Nobby's Beach after failing to heed warnings to move offshore.
On 9 June 2007, the Hunter and Central Coast regions were declared natural disaster areas by the state Premier Mr Morris Iemma. Although further flooding was predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology this never eventuated to the extent predicted. On 2 July 2007 the Pasha Bulker was finally refloated on the 3rd salvage attempt despite earlier fears that the ship would break up. After initially entering the port for minor repairs it departed for major repairs in Asia under tow on 26 July 2007.
|Climate data for Nobbys Signal Station AWS, Newcastle|
|Mean maximum (°C)||25.5||25.4||24.7||22.8||20.0||17.5||16.7||18.0||20.2||22.1||23.5||24.9||21.8|
|Mean minimum (°C)||19.2||19.3||18.2||15.3||12.0||9.6||8.4||9.2||11.4||14.0||16.1||18.0||14.2|
|Mean rainfall (mm)||89.5||108.0||120.8||116.6||118.0||117.5||95.0||75.1||73.0||73.2||70.5||81.8||1140.8|
Newcastle is often quoted as being the seventh largest city in Australia. However, this is misleading as the area represented extends well beyond both the City of Newcastle and the Newcastle metropolitan area. The area, officially the Newcastle Statistical District, is referred to as Greater Newcastle or the Lower Hunter Region, which includes most parts of the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock, Maitland and Port Stephens local government areas and has a total population of 493,465. Despite their proximity, all of the LGAs in the region maintain their own individual identities, separate from Newcastle, however Newcastle remains the regional hub for most services.
The Port of Newcastle remains the economic and trade centre for the resource rich Hunter Valley and for much of the north and northwest of New South Wales. Newcastle is the world's largest coal export port and Australia's oldest and second largest tonnage throughput port, with over 3,000 shipping movements handling cargo of 85.6 million tonnes per annum, of which coal exports represented 80.2 million tonnes per annum in 2005/06. The volume of coal exported, and attempts to increase coal exports, are opposed by environmental groups.
Newcastle has a small shipbuilding industry, which has declined since the 1970s. In recent years the only major ship-construction contract awarded to the area was the construction of the Huon class minehunters.
With the closure of the steel works in 1999 the era of extensive heavy industry has passed. Many of the remaining manufacturing industries have located themselves well away from the city itself, focusing on cheap land and access to road transport routes and lack the concentrated social impact of BHP on the city's life.
Newcastle has claim to one of the oldest theatre districts in Australia, with its still standing Victoria Theatre on Perkins Street the oldest purpose-built theatre in the country. The theatre district that occupied the area around what is now the Hunter Street Mall vanished during the 1940s when much of Newcastle's cultural appreciation disintegrated in the very industrial-oriented city.
The old city centre has seen some new apartments and hotels built in recent years, but the rate of commercial and retail occupation remains low as alternate suburban centres have become more important. The CBD itself is shifting to the west, towards the major urban renewal area known as \"Honeysuckle\". This renewal, to run for another 10 years, is a major part of arresting the shift of business and residents to the suburbs.
The old central business district, located at Newcastle's eastern end, still has a considerable number of historic buildings, dominated by Christ Church Cathedral, seat of the (Anglican) Bishop of Newcastle. Other noteworthy buildings include Fort Scratchley, the Ocean Baths, the old Customs House, the 1920s City Hall, the 1890s Longworth Institute (once regarded as the finest building in the colony) and the 1930s art deco University House (formerly NESCA House, recently seen in the film Superman Returns). Residents of Newcastle refer to themselves as \"Novocastrians\".
The University of Newcastle (formerly established in 1951 as part of the University of New South Wales) obtained its autonomy in 1965 and now with a student population of just over 20,000, it offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate courses.
This Is Not Art is a national festival of new media and arts held in Newcastle each year over the October long weekend. Since its humble beginnings in 1998, it has become one of the leading arts festivals in Australia dedicated to the work and ideas of communities not included in other major Australian arts festivals. The umbrella program includes the independent festivals Electrofringe, the National Young Writers' Festival, National Student Media Conference, Sound Summit and other projects that vary from year to year.
The Shootout Film Festival, first started in Newcastle in 1999. This is the film festival where film-makers come together in one place to make a short film in 24 hours. It is run annually in July.
Mattara, founded in 1961, is the official festival of Newcastle with a more traditional 'country fair' type program that combines a parade, rides, sporting events, band competitions and portrait and landscape painting exhibitions.
Rainbow Visions holds its annual Festival in October for the local Gay and Lesbian Community. Set over 10 days the festival ends with annual Picnic day where up to a thousand Gay and Lesbians gather together with their family and friends.
The Newcastle Jazz Festival is held across three days in August, and attracts performers and audiences from all over Australia.
The Newcastle Regional Show is held in the Newcastle Showground annually. There are a mixture of typical regional show elements such as woodchopping displays, showbags, rides and stalls and usually fireworks to compliment the events in the main arena.
The Newcastle Entertainment Centre, located inside the Newcastle Showground is a popular venue for regular events including wrestling, concerts and monster truck shows.
Newcastle has also been home to noted Australian actors, comedians and entertainers, including Sarah Wynter, John Doyle (part of comic act Roy and HG), Susie Porter, Celia Ireland, Yahoo Serious and Jonathan Biggins. The cast of the Tap Dogs show also come from Newcastle.
The city is also served by several local radio stations, including those owned by the ABC and SBS.
Bus services within Newcastle are operated by Newcastle Buses & Ferries, a subsidiary of the State Transit Authority of New South Wales. Trips within a designated area of the Newcastle CBD on State Transit-operated bus services are fare-free under the Newcastle Alliance's Free City Buses programme.
The network radiates from a bus terminal near CityRail's Newcastle station, on the waterfront of Newcastle's CBD. Major interchanges are located at the University of Newcastle, Wallsend, Glendale, Warners Bay, Belmont, Charlestown, Westfield Kotara and Broadmeadow Station.
Newcastle is serviced by two CityRail lines providing local and regional commuter services. The Newcastle & Central Coast Line has hourly train services to Sydney and more frequent services to the Central Coast. The Hunter Line has twice-hourly services to Maitland and less frequently to Scone and Dungog. Countrylink (an intercity/interstate rail service) operate two lines through the Newcastle area using Broadmeadow Station. These provide services to Moree, Armidale, Brisbane and Sydney.
Newcastle once had rail passenger services to Belmont and Toronto, on Lake Macquarie, Wallsend, Kurri Kurri and several towns and villages between Maitland and Cessnock, but these lines have today been closed. Since the late 1990s, there had been intense debate about the viability of the rail line into central Newcastle. The New South Wales government had planned to cut the line at Broadmeadow, ceasing rail services into the city and to sell the land where the railway ran for development. The State government has subsequently decided, since Premier Morris Iemma took power, and at least partly in response to a huge public outcry, to keep the rail service.
The Port of Newcastle is crucial to the economic life of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley region beyond. Over 70 million tonnes of coal is shipped through the facility each year - making it the largest coal exporting port in the world. The Port of Newcastle claims to be Australia's first port. Coal was first exported from the harbour in 1799.
Newcastle Buses & Ferries operates a ferry service across the Hunter River between Newcastle's CBD and Stockton.
The closure of Belmont Airport, commonly referred to as Aeropelican, in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Marks Point has caused Williamtown to become Newcastle's only major airport and residents in the south of the Newcastle metropolitan area must commute up to by car to reach Williamtown.