Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, is Australia´s sixth largest city. It is 160km north of Sydney, on the mouth of the Hunter River.
Population and geography
The metropolitan area of Newcastle spreads over several Local Government Areas. The estimated population of the City of Newcastle at June 2003 was 144,375 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), but its neighbour, the City of Lake Macquarie, was actually larger, with an estimated 189,150 residents as of June 2003 (ABS). The combined population of the Newcastle area at the 2001 census was 470,610. This includes Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens and Cessnock local government areas.
Newcastle is located on the southern bank of the Hunter River at its mouth. The northern side is dominated by sand dunes, swamps and multiple river channels. Because of this, urban development is mainly restricted to the hilly southern bank. The small village of Stockton sits opposite Newcastle at the river mouth and is linked by ferry. Much of the city is undercut by the coal measures of the Sydney sedimentary basin, and what were once numerous coal-mining villages located in the hills and valleys around the port have merged into a single urban area extending southwards to Lake Macquarie.
The first European to explore the area was Lt. John Shortland in 1797, and in 1798, coal mined from the area was the New South Wales colony´s first export. An attempt to establish a permanent settlement in the area (then called Coal River) failed but in 1804 the current city (briefly called King´s Town) was established. Initially it was a penal settlement, with agriculture the only industry.
Coal mining began in earnest in the 1830s. In the 1890s a zinc smelter was built by Cockle Creek. In 1915 the BHP steelworks opened beginning a period of some 80 years dominated by the steel works and heavy industry. With the closure of the steel works in 2000 and the expected closure of the Sulphide Corporation works by 2006 the era of heavy industry is passing and the city´s population is growing, attracted by its coastal lifestyle, excellent education and health services and improving employment opportunities in the tertiary sector. Newcastle´s cliched image as a grimy steel town is fading. The city centre, although still empty and rather miserable, has attracted a rash of new apartments and hotels in recent years. It is unlikely to ever return to its former commercial glory, but could develop a more apartment-style inner city residential / commercial mixture. This may also attract a more diverse population. The old links with Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, whence many of the 19th century coal miners came, is still obvious in some of the place-names – such as Jesmond, Hexham, Wickham and Wallsend.
On December 28, 1989, Newcastle experienced an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale which killed 13 people. The following economic recession of the early 1990s meant that the city took several years to recover. Coincidentally, a small island now known as Nobby´s Head was joined to the mainland, a distance of about 50 metres, with rubble from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
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 busiest coal export port and Australia´s oldest and second largest tonnage throughput port, with over 3,000 shipping movements handling cargo in excess of 90 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), of which coal exports represent more than 90%. Newcastle also has a substantial ship building industry.
The old central business district, located at Newcastle´s eastern end, still has a considerable number of historic buildings, dominated by the Christ Church Cathedral. Other noteworthy buildings include Fort Scratchley, the Ocean Baths, the old Customs House, the 1920s City Hall, and the 1930s art deco University House (formerly NESCA House). After the 1989 earthquake much of the new commercial developments have concentrated around the suburbs of Hamilton and Charlestown. The city is serviced by two railway lines, including hourly train services to Sydney and also twice per hour services to Maitland and less frequently to Scone and Dungog . The Williamtown Airport is nearby (also a major Air Force base).
The University of Newcastle (formerly part of the University of New South Wales) obtained its autonomy in 1965 and now with a student population of just over 20,000 offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate courses, delivered via five Faculties – Business and Law; Education and Arts; Engineering and Built Environment; Health; and Science and Information Technology.
Newcastle has an active youth music culture. Bands and groups produce both guitar based and computer based music for a pub based concert scene. Silverchair, the highly successful Australian band, hailed from Newcastle.
Unlike those of its British namesake, who call themselves “Geordies”, residents of Newcastle, NSW refer to themselves as “Novocastrians”.
Temperature and weather
Average Annual Temperature: 12.4 – 23.0°C (54.3 – 73.4°F)