October 15, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio | Image: NSW Minister for Planning and Public Space, Rob Stokes, Joanna Savill, the Creative Director of Placemaking NSW, and Paul Nicolaou at the media announcement in The Rocks this week

Reactivating Sydney is the top priority of Paul Nicolaou, the new Executive Director of Business Sydney.

He’s the master of bringing people together and creating momentum for important causes, so in this post-lockdown period his core strength is much needed.

To bring Sydney back to life Nicolaou needs loads of collaboration and a ten-point plan.

Nicolaou has recently joined the former Sydney Business Chamber – now called Business Sydney – having moved from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry where he has instrumental in rebuilding the organisation and its network of members.

He was in that role for seven years but now, Sydney needs him to weave his magic on a bigger scale.

Sydney foot traffic dropped to two percent during the 107 days of lockdown, he said. And that emptiness was bleeding the city of everything, including its soul.

Cities need people to thrive and now that NSW has reached its important vaccination threshold of 70, with 80 percent on the cards for the next few days, it’s going to take a concerted effort to get the city pumping again.

“We will work collaboratively to make Sydney the number city in the Asia Pacific region,” he said.

Among the policies being promoted in the ten-point plan is a call for a designated Minister for Sydney.

“We need a Minister with the specific responsibility for Sydney and for co-ordinating all the stakeholders – similar to what Gladys Berejiklian did with the creation of Resilience NSW.”

This agency was formed in December 2020 and was designed to support communities devastated by disasters and emergencies.

He said coming out of lockdown on Monday marked a new beginning for the city’s CBD and bringing workers and visitors back to the empty city streets.

“Sydney’s CBD was the beating heart of the state’s economy, and we need to restart it with a strong return to offices, hospitality, arts and cultural venues,” he said.

“We want the city back to its vibrant best and to be the pre-eminent city in our region to work, visit and play.

“State and local government need to support and work with business to generate economic growth and employment in Sydney’s CBD.

“Federal and state governments are working to open borders to international visitors as early as next month and we need the city to be pumping again to attract tourists and international workers to our great global city.”

Business Sydney’s ten-point plan to help deliver Sydney’s economic recovery includes:

  1. Appointing a special Minister for Sydney to coordinate the city’s recovery
  2. Free public transport from 6-7am and 6-7pm for six months
  3. Removal of the fringe benefits tax on lunches for 12 months
  4. Waiving of fees/restrictions for pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants for al-fresco dining on footpaths and extending outdoor footprints to include car parks and open spaces
  5. Removal of the parking space levy for six months
  6. Establishing a “Reopen Sydney Fund”, to support small businesses with operating costs
  7. Running a “Shop & Dine Sydney” promotional campaign including accommodation vouchers and an extension of the Dine & Discover vouchers until June 2022
  8. Allow later night trading in the CBD for 12 months
  9. A coordinated live events and street activation program
  10. Creating a roadmap for return of the cruise and business events industries

“This is also a great opportunity to create a 24-hour economy in our city that drives the hospitality and tourism sectors, something other global cities like London and New York have been doing for years,” Nicolaou said.

On Wednesday, the NSW Government announced some actions designed to kickstart the city.

NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes visited The Rocks to announce details of activations and an extension of the Dine & Discover vouchers, as well as four new dining and drink spots – Hickson House Distilling Co, The Keel, Chateau Tanunda and Frank Mac’s – in the city’s historic harbourfront precinct.

Nicolaou said Business Sydney would work closely with all Governments, associations and major venues and event organisers.

“We all need to collaborate to help this city thrive – together we need to show that Sydney is open for business again.”

His appointment to the role at Business Sydney could not have come at a better time – Nicolaou is fired up to make a big difference to his home city’s resurgence. The master networker will be bringing everyone together to bring Sydney back to life.