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Greens want to bring a 'night mayor' to Wollongong's towns, CBD after dark

Wollongong's Greens candidates for the upcoming council election are once again pitching a plan to install a "night mayor", to help boost after-dark activities across the city.

While the job - which the Greens have hoped to create for the past eight years - might have a snazzy, slightly spooky name name, a night mayor is simply a permanent part time position at the council, the party's candidate for Lord Mayor Jess Whittaker said.

The new employee would responsible for prioritising the night-time economy and streamlining clunky venue approval processes, that the Greens said has left many venues delayed or unable to open at all, resulting in a struggling, empty night scene. It would also work with music venues, bars, 24-hour gyms and late-night grocery stores, and help cluster night-time businesses together to create small night-time precincts within the likes of Port Kembla or Thirroul.

"The thing we're hearing from businesses is that it can be a clunky process dealing with council DAs, so a way we can make it easier would be to have someone to support new businesses and young businesses and make it a good experience for them," she said.

Ms Whittaker said the state's first 24-Hour Economy Commissioner Michael Rodrigues, who has been working in with businesses in Sydney, demonstrated how effective having someone overseeing night time activities could be. She said the job would suit a bar or venue owner, or someone from the music or events scene, who knows the dynamics of the industry and can give the council inside knowledge about the local nightlife scene.

The Greens have been pitching the "night mayor" vision at elections since 2017, when then mayoral candidate Mithra Cox said it was based on a similar idea in Amsterdam.

Ms Whittaker said it still had a lot of merit eight years on, especially in tough economic times. "Our nighttime economy has taken a beating from COVID and a lack of adequate help for venue owners, promoters and others to get through the council's red tape and clunky channels," she said.

State Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said Wollongong was a thriving, diverse city that deserved music and the night-time economy to be a priority. "All too often owners of restaurants, cafes and bars who want to provide diverse night-time options for the community find themselves struggling with a confusing and over-the-top regulatory environment and a lack of planning," she said.

"This isn't great for business and it's not great for the community with a lack of lively, safe spaces on offer for people who want to go out late with their family and friends."


Story by Kate McIlwain in the Illawarra Mercury, 22 May 2024.