Special Business Rates Program

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.

To view the boundaries of each of Newcastle's business precincts where Special Business Rates are collected, click on the Special Business Rate Precinct Maps (PDF).

2021 City / Darby Street Projects: Events, Installations and Promotions Now On!

The City of Newcastle has provided a funding pool of almost $800,000 in 2021/22, awarded through a competitive application round to projects with the most effective, creative and innovative ideas to boost local businesses. Categories of focus are on industry / business development, place activation / events, beautification / infrastructure development and promotion. The following 16 projects will be creating a buzz in your city in the coming months:

Project name Organiser Amount received Project Summary
Summer Shakespeare in the Park Jane Gibson $22,000

Shakespeare in the Park will present weekend performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Civic Park across the 2022 summer season. It will feature an ensemble of local performers, to stage a wild, irreverent and magical performance.

This performance will offer a meaningful cultural experience for Newcastle audiences and be the first step in creating a new ensemble theatre company in Newcastle. Local businesses will be supported through "Dine & Show" ticketing options.
Thriving Gardens > Thriving Community > Thriving Business Herb Urban Pty Limited $30,000 This project will reinvigorate Darby Street shopfronts with veins of living greenery and edible plants that are data-collecting pieces of sustainable infrastructure, a symbol of innovation, and a reflection of Newcastle’s commitment to its climate action goals. Our project involves installation of standalone smart gardening systems (fixed to shopfront facades and portable kerbside gardens) throughout Darby Street.
Makers & Traders Newcastle Year 3 (MTNY3) Makers and Traders Newcastle $70,000

Makers and Traders Newcastle was formed in 2019 to showcase a growing group of local creative businesses across the Newcastle inner city. Our goal was to support and strengthen collaboration between businesses and encourage lapsed locals to return to the city.

This project builds on our previous success, with the aim of continuing to foster the community’s capacity to deliver unique visitor and retail experiences in Newcastle. The third iteration of the Newcastle Treasure Map (2022), a printed guide to discovering the MTN network, will continue to help position Newcastle as the Smart Creative City of Australia.

Small Walls - Graffiti Prevention Program The Wall Station (Trading as Sweet Media) $50,000 This project will help prevent tagging and graffiti on business properties who face ongoing vandalism, by installing murals by local artists. Small Walls aims to benefit businesses directly by beautifying graffitied walls with mural art, activating spaces and deterring vandalism. Community groups will be engaged to work with the artists, to help build local capacity and share skills.
The Big Picture Fest Newcastle 2022 Big Picture Fest $150,000 The Big Picture Fest will return to Newcastle for its second year in 2022! Locals and visitors will watch a number of large scale murals painted live in-person or online in a free community event within the city centre. The project will support local businesses through collaborative promotions and increased local and tourism foot traffic during the event and into the future. It will beautify the city creating vibrant, safe and active public places and business hubs through placemaking.
Special Newcastle City edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine HSR Publishing Pty Ltd $59,894 With the goal of driving visitation from outside the region, this project will create a special edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine to showcase everything the Newcastle City Centre and Darby Street precincts have to offer. With a print run of 30,000 copies to be distributed for free in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne, coverage will include hospitality, retail, events and culture, as well as outdoors & adventure. It will highlight the Newcastle city centre as a must-visit destination.
Create Your Place UP&UP Inspirations $34,485 UP&UP Inspirations will activate the city for two days with a series of street art workshops and live painting exhibitions. The workshops are open to the public and will encourage all members of the community to participate by registering for an activity. The workshops will be suitable for young people, families, older people, people with disabilities – everyone!
Her Productions Local Theatre Premiere Event Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub $20,000 Her Productions is a new Newcastle based production company, run by women with the intention to create equal opportunities for female identifying individuals in the performing and creative arts industry. Her Production's Premiere Event, which will launch the company, will be a contemporary adaptation of Chekhov's classic play, 'Uncle Vanya'. No less than 50% of creatives & crew are female and our cast is evenly gendered, so that we can provide fair and equal work experience and opportunities for women here in Newcastle.
Sci Fi Spectacular Inner City Activation Series Fingers Crossed Creative LTD. $70,000 This will be a six-show multi-faceted micro-festival activation within a local venue including different elements: a full production presentation of the Sci Fi Spectacular show with a ticketed audience; a “Laneway Party” feel activation with entertainment (eg. chill DJ + roving entertainment) + “street food” dining experience with a range of foods offered by local businesses; and a sideshow / interactive zone.
Music People - precinct activation project Field Frequency $64,400 Music People is an innovative and collaborative live music TV show which, through a successful first season, unified physical and digital communities in Newcastle and supported a healthy entertainment industry. This season will produce three episodes, in collaboration with local businesses and other projects that are activating the precinct.
Newcastle West Street Party Vexel Creations $12,000 Based at the Midtown precinct, the Newcastle West Street Party will occur on a Sunday afternoon from 12-9pm that welcomes food and retail vendors and buskers, dance performances and workshops, live pottery & tutorial, live art performance and live music. A creative hub of celebration, in a safe and inclusive manner!
Stomping Ground The Y Pty Ltd $30,000 Stomping Ground will be a series of music & art fusion gigs carried out across a range of venues throughout the Newcastle city centre. There will be diverse performers at events, which will include art displays in venues.
Gateway to Darby Street Precinct Mural Jordan Lucky $9,500 This public art project will create a large scale modern, vibrant and engaging mural highlighting local Australian flora and fauna at the bar beach end of Darby street (39 Tooke Street). This mural will be a highlight of the area and will encourage positivity, foot traffic in the Darby street precinct, and act as a graffiti prevention method. The wall is in prime roadside space facing towards Bar Beach and Parkway Avenue roundabout which for many is an entry point to Darby Street and our city.
Mad Bitches Inc. Helen Hopcroft $19,993 Mad Bitches Inc. is a female-fronted, multidisciplinary cabaret show that premiered at Newcastle Fringe in March 2021. The show enjoyed a sell-out season at the Royal Exchange Salon Theatre, and was nominated for the Festival's Best Show Award, with cast member Sophie Cook winning the award for Best Performance by an Individual Artist. Mad Bitches Inc. then toured to Dubbo Fringe, where it again was nominated for the Best Show award. It is now planned to bring the production to the New Annual Festival in 2022, and to support local businesses through "Dine & Show" ticketing options.
Chalk the Walk Newcastle Zest Events International Pty Ltd $45,000 Chalk the Walk Newcastle will build on the success and community interest in the February 2021 event. A temporary 3D art trail will be created in key outdoor locations, designed to attract people into the city centre. Visitors can watch the artists work, interact with the artworks, and share their photos across social and personal networks.
Newcastle Food Month 2022 Maher Initiatives t/as Newcastle Events $80,000 Newcastle Food Month originated in 2021 with the generous support of City of Newcastle. It provides an event framework around which Newcastle cafes, restaurants, hotels and food events can encourage Novocastrians to dine out and attend food-related events in April 2022. It will provide structure, marketing and promotion. The program is then marketed to the greater Newcastle area and beyond, bringing diners into the City and Darby Street precinct. The program 'platform' provides businesses the opportunity to participate in different food-related promotions and events.

2021 Hamilton SBR Funding released

In April 2021, expressions of interest were sought for projects aimed at the promotion, beautification and development of the Hamilton business precinct.

In May the City of Newcastle’s SBR Assessment Panel (consisting of elected Councillors and a representative from the Hamilton Business Association) assessed 10 project applications. After much deliberation, the Panel approved funding for 4 projects totalling $50,662. All the successful applications were selected for their targeted focus on developing and promoting local businesses and activating Beaumont Street and the neighbouring businesses. The successful projects for 2021 are:

Organisation Name Project Title Funding Amount Project Summary
Curious Legends Curious Creatures $16,662 A mini-festival of afternoon and evening cultural activations in Hamilton's Gregson Park, tentatively planned for November 2021. There will be a program of local artists, musicians, light installations and puppeteers to activate the park as a community meeting place and showcase it as a welcoming, multi-use, family-friendly space. The community are invited to participate in free workshops at Hudson Street Hum prior, and to get involved with performance opportunities. Curious Legends' flagship large scale, illuminated puppetry performances, will be performed for visitors in the evening.
UP&UP Inspirations Hamilton Hive Interactive Mural $14,000

This project will design and paint an interactive mural on the exterior wall of the Community Hive building on Beaumont Street, Hamilton. The mural will make the space more vibrant and welcoming, encouraging people to visit the Hamilton precinct, and increasing foot traffic for businesses.

Paul Maher Walk With Us $10,000

This project will replace a number of existing mosaics with safe, level, slip resistant installations suitable for insertion in a high foot traffic area.These will beautify the Beaumont Street footpath, honour the suburb's social and entrepreneurial history, encourage engagement with local businesses and celebrate our shared cultural heritage and history. The project will work with emerging ceramic artists from TAFE-Hamilton, Hudson Street Hum and local businesses to recreate historical Beaumont Street in colourful art designed for longevity and authenticity, thereby creating an attractive liveable built environment.

Project #4 Details to be announced soon

Previous rounds

2020 Newcastle City Centre / Darby Street SBR Funding released

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.

In the second half of 2020, expressions of interest were 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.

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 totaling $934,293. 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:

Organisation Name Project Title Funding Amount Project Summary
Newcastle City BIA Live Spots $42,000 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.
Catapult Dance Chorepgraphic Hub Creative Newcastle $122,800 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.
University of Newcastle City Lights for Social Change $87,280 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.
Adventure for Life Discover Newcastle Mobile Adventures $5,000 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.
Curious Legends Made In Newcastle $90,000 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 Events Newcastle Food Month $65,000 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.
HUNTERhunter Newcastle Food Month Marketing Campaign by HUNTERhunter $40,000 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 and Traders Makers & Traders Newcastle $148,776 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.
Heritage Now Archaeology Alive Walking Tour $24,920 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 UP&UP Street Art Workshops - Create Your Space $25,200 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.
Enigma Christmas in the City $75,322 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.
Newcastle Parkour The Little Green $20,000 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.
Zest Events International Chalk The Walk, Newcastle $57,695 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.
Screen Hunter "Created in Newcastle" by The Real Film Festival 2020 $41,500 "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.
Newcastle Style Sessions Open House Newcastle $88,800 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.

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.