Special Business Rates Program

This inaugural The Big Picture Fest was supported through our Special Business Rate. program - we love the amazing creations the artists have left for our City to enjoy.

Special Business Rates (SBR) are collected from businesses in Newcastle City Centre / Darby Street, Hamilton, Mayfield, New Lambton and Wallsend, and are reserved exclusively for the promotion, beautification and development of these business precincts. Annual funding for the most creative and innovative project proposals is distributed through a competitive application process.

Recent Funding Opportunity – Newcastle City Centre / Darby Street

Expressions of interest were recently sought for projects aimed at the promotion, beautification and development of the City Centre / Darby Street precinct. Categories of focus were industry / business development, place activation / events, beautification / infrastructure development and promotion.

2020 SBR Funding now released

In September 2020 the City of Newcastle’s SBR Selection Panel assessed 31 project applications. After much deliberation, the Panel approved funding for 15 projects for the Newcastle City and Darby Street precinct. All the successful applications were selected for their targeted focus on developing and promoting local businesses and activating Newcastle’s city centre. The successful projects for 2020 are:

Project Title Project Summary
Live Spots A city-wide initiative to establish live music ‘spots’, creating ambiance and passer-by entertainment for business precincts, while helping to create opportunity for income and promotion for local musicians.
Creative Newcastle An ambitious project to bolster Newcastle’s arts, business and night-time economy sector, through digital development, data collation, promotion and events. The project will include a multi-arts program of events, a National Arts Industry Conference in late 2021, a digital platform and arts industry directory, and an evaluation and research framework.
City Lights for Social Change  This will build a permanent lighting infrastructure for Civic Park, creating a spectacular lightscape to attract people to walk from and through Hunter and King Street, Civic Park to Darby Street. The project aims to help build a safe and vibrant night-time economy, increase tourism, promote public safety and provide global coverage for local activisms and campaigns, with the  flagship campaign being 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women from November 25 to December 10 2020.
Discover Newcastle Mobile Adventures Discover Newcastle Mobile Adventure is a digital App-based treasure hunt game designed to bring families, tourists, school and social groups into the city centre and promote foot traffic to different landmarks and highlights of the city's business precinct.
Made In Newcastle A city-wide undertaking in collaboration with local businesses, regional tourism, and Newcastle's vibrant arts community to run a series of events over many months in 2020 - 2021. Newcastle Council's mobile app will be utilised for this project, with particular emphasis on the 'walking tours' functionality.
Newcastle Food Month This exciting month-long project aims to promote and cultivate what makes Newcastle and the surrounding precincts a gastronomic playground. The festival will offer a line-up of one-off dining experiences that rejoices Newcastle City and Darby Street’s eclectic dining scene, and will target the attraction of both locals and visitors is set to attract both locals and visitors alike. 
Newcastle Food Month Marketing Campaign by HUNTERhunter The local marketing company HUNTERhunter will work together with the Newcastle Food Month to undertake a 3-month multi-faceted digital and traditional media campaign (February - April 2021) to promote the Newcastle Food Month Festival in its lead-up and during the month-long festival period. 
Makers & Traders Newcastle The newly created Makers and Traders "Project 360" digital interface will use virtual tours and podcasts in order to enable visitors and locals to assess Newcastle's creative experience, and to encourage bookings, sales and connection.  The opportunity for 'click and buy' for businesses with a supporting checkout in their website will also be integrated. Further, the revised and beautifully designed Treasure Map will make the navigation of creative opportunities and experiences easier for visitors and locals alike. 
Archaeology Alive Walking Tour The Archaeology Alive walking tour will showcase archaeological excavations which have been undertaken in the Newcastle and Darby Street SBR area, and delivered through the City of Newcastle App. It will present Indigenous and non-Indigenous history in an accessible format, create community engagement and increase foot traffic in the precinct. 
UP&UP Street Art Workshops - Create Your Space This initiative will activate Wheeler Place with a series of interactive street art workshops and live painting exhibitions during the New Annual Festival in February 2021. The workshops will be open to the public, and will encourage all members of the community to participate and visit the city centre during the Arts and Cultural Festival period.
Christmas in the City This project will activate spaces in the City Centre and Darby St, with the aim of attracting people to the areas prior to Christmas and encourage people to spend at local businesses. Civic Park will be activated for ten days with a life-sized maze made from christmas trees. Additionally, two sites in the city (tentatively Hunter Street Mall and Darby Street) will have free Santa photos set up for five days each. Special business offers will also be promoted at the activations.
The Little Green The Little Green project will be a celebration of nature, music, giving and community. In the form of a space-making installation in the hunter street mall area, "The Little Green" will consist of planters, a community notice board, plant sharing, bike parking, cafe seating and a small platform to serve as a stage for a musician.
Chalk The Walk, Newcastle This project will see a temporary 3D artwork trail installed in key outdoor locations in the City Centre and Darby Street. The artworks would be designed to attract people to the city centre to watch the artists at work, interact with the artwork, have their photos taken and share photos across their social and personal networks. The activation would be held over 5 days in February 2021 and will feature professional chalk artists from Newcastle and the Central Coast.
"Created in Newcastle" by The Real Film Festival 2020 "Created in Newcastle" by the Real Film Festival will deliver new ways of reconnecting film, arts and culture across city precinct businesses that will help strengthen the Newcastle business sector through digital development, online presence and marketing of SBR businesses, through the delivery of business development workshops and the delivery of mentorships to businesses in the city precinct to assist in invigorating their businesses.
Open House Newcastle Open House Newcastle, to be located at the old Newcastle Station,  is an immersive installation, inviting you to walk through the spaces that have been entirely created by, and using local retailer products. It aims to turn the spotlight on Newcastle’s design industry and re-inforces the sense of renewal that is happening in Newcastle with a new dawn of design.

Previous Rounds

In 2019, 15 events and promotions shared in more than $820,000 in funding. In June 2020, CN convened an Ideas Exchange to share learnings and recommendations from the successful funding recipients. A brief synopsis of each successful project is available at the following (PDF). SBR funding for the suburban precincts of Hamilton / New Lambton / Wallsend were completed in early 2019. 

As a result of the Ideas Exchange, updates have been made to the 2020 SBR Guidelines aimed at encouraging project collaboration and sustainability.

Applications for SBR funding for the Hamilton, New Lambton, Wallsend and Mayfield precincts will open in early 2021.