Well, it’s Christmas, and its time again for the UrbanWorkbench newsletter.

Mike and Robyn have been insanely busy this December with Robyn and the kids flying out to Canada on the 5th and Mike tidying up things in Newcastle. Mike is officially now a refugee, living with friends and out of suitcases, which makes life pretty interesting. Regular writing will cease over the Christmas break due to travel and family commitments, we’ll see you again in the New Year!

So what’s been going on?

Consulting Work

Despite all our busyness, things have been going well, Mike has been busy working as project manager on a couple of high profile jobs and working as an internal consultant on several industrial subdivision designs.

Christmas is an interesting time of year as a consultant, many clients feel that they want things into Council for review before Christmas, under the impression that they are meeting some deadline, generally it means that less review is undertaken as senior staff often take holidays early. One benefit for clients is that the planning review process is underway from the date of lodgment, so things are “happening” while everyone is on holidays, apparently. In Australia, the 40 working days for the authorities to respond still applies too, which puts extra pressure on them.

Mike is officially resigning from the consulting firm in Newcastle in preparation for his move to Castlegar, BC, Canada.  

Read more after the jump…


There has been some contention recently in Newcastle, about parking meters, I covered that as part of my Newcastle’s Problems series, but not being a political blog, I didn’t attempt to delve into the machinations of Newcastle City Council’s inability to make decisions, however, this is crippling the council’s reputation and progress as a city.

I’m a bit sad to be leaving this great city, it’s been our home for 4 years, but it’s time to move on, there’s a lot of potential to make a difference here and I’m happy to leave the city in the hands of my colleagues. I’m in Sydney for the Christmas/New Year period.

Newcastle City has been approved for buildings of up to 25 storeys high, significantly increasing from the previous limit of 12 storeys.  The rail network might be in for an expansion, with talks of a Lake Macquarie line being investigated.  These two news items suggest that the region is in for a huge growth period over the next decade. In some ways, I’m glad to be getting out before it gets out of control, it appears that much of the development is being driven from a State level, rather than from a Local Council level, of course local developers are loving the idea of being able to make more money off their holdings!  But that’s capitalism and life in a city.


We’ve secured a rental property as temporary accommodation for our arrival in Castlegar. At this stage it looks like Robyn and the girls will arrive first, then I’ll fly in on the 19th of January.  I’ll be working as a consulting Civil Engineer four days a week and not sure what will happen on the fifth day and the weekend, but I’m sure we’ll find something to keep us occupied and satisfied with life.

The town of Castlegar numbers about 8,000 and sits in the middle of the Kootenays, a beautiful mountainous region in the middle of British Columbia, just up from the US border. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to write about as we explore the region on arrival.

I’d like to thank my regular readers and those who have contributed to the discussions on the website and continued it in emails, its been great to get to know you all. Thanks also to the WorldChanging network for the opportunity to write for them and those of you who have discussed business and not-for-profit ventures and opportunities with me. As you all know, life is a bit up in the air at the moment. When we’re settled into our new home and life, I’ll be back on board as usual.  

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, please leave a comment or drop me an email, normally I’ll be in a position to respond within 48 hours depending on your request or ideas. And as usual, you can view Mike’s photos at Zooomr. Let me know if you’d like to see all of our family photos, I’ll get you started with an account!

And finally, Merry Christmas to you all, friends, family and readers!

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.