Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Council gags Greens motion to keep Newcastle rail line

Newcastle Greens
3 December 2008

Newcastle Council last night refused to discuss a motion from Greens Councillor Michael Osborne adopting a clear position supporting retention of the Newcastle rail line.

Greens Cr Michael Osborne last night moved that council:

1. affirms its support for revitalising the Newcastle CBD, and considers the future transport options for the city, including proposals from community organisations such as Save Our Rail, the Parks and Playgrounds Movement, and the Newcastle Transport for Business Development group in relation to the Newcastle rail line.

2. supports improved bus and ferry services to the CBD, beaches and the inner suburbs, and an upgraded Wickham station.

3. advocates improved connectivity between the harbour and the CBD, and improved visual appearance of the heavy rail corridor, by means of safe, strategically placed pedestrian crossings, improved bicycle infrastructure, and a landscaped rail corridor.

4. will base its support for future transport infrastructure to revitalise the CBD on the principles of ecologically sustainable development and social equity, and on the concept of Transit Oriented Development that maintains or expands the city’s rail infrastructure and services.

However, this was ruled out of order by the Lord Mayor, John Tate, on spurious grounds, which Cr Osborne immediately challenged. Other councillors then voted to support the Lord Mayor’s ruling, effectively censoring any further discussion on Cr Osborne’s motion.

“The motion I put remains The Greens preferred position on the rail line, and we will continue our strong support for the community campaign against the current push by vested interests to cut it,” Cr Osborne said.

“However, when I was denied the opportunity to even debate our preferred option, I then supported a motion moved by Labor councillors, on the basis that it clearly indicated that the council’s submission to the CBD Task Force would not include support for any projects associated with cutting the rail line,” Cr Osborne said.

The Labor motion, eventually adopted unanimously by the council, supported “a viable integrated public transport system that considers all options to improve services, access and connectivity”, and stated that “existing infrastructure should remain in place until such time as a fully costed and funded alternate plan for a viable integrated public transport system is approved for implementation”.

“I reluctantly supported the Labor motion as a ‘next best’ option, since we’re confident that the existing rail infrastructure would play a key role in any genuinely viable and integrated public transport system that enhances transport links to and from the city, and that the motion supports keeping the rail line until such a system has been fully funded and approved,” Cr Osborne said.

“Whilst the Liberal/conservative alliance on council were pushing to cut the rail line, The Greens understand that rail - including the rail line to Newcastle station - will play a key role in the sustainable revitalisation of the Newcastle CBD, and that any genuinely viable and integrated public transport system will expand, rather than eliminate, the city’s current rail infrastructure.

“We’re not frightened of a rigorous, credible and independent assessment of the role that the rail line has to play in the future of the city’s revitalisation and the development of a new, sustainable, and integrated public transport system.

“Unfortunately, the incessant push by vested interests to cut the rail line, and the weak-kneed response to this by successive state governments (Coalition and Labor) have always prevented this from happening.

“In supporting last night’s motion in the interest of sending a unified message from the council, I hope that State and Federal governments will at last heed the call for a process that will give Newcastle the sustainable public transport system that The Greens and the community have been campaigning for since the early nineties,” Cr Osborne said.

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