Wednesday, 17 December 2008

And finally...

You be the judge!

You may remember my earlier posts about Council annual reporting obligations regarding senior staff, Newcastle Council's culture of secrecy and more on Council's reporting obligations.

You may also remember media reports about a so-called "code of conduct complaint" lodged by one of Newcastle Council's senior staff when my concerns where raised.

Well the code of conduct reviewer has reviewed the case and thrown it out.

You be the judge!

The complaint from Ms Walsh

This is a word-for-word copy of the complaint from Group Manager Ms Walsh received Saturday, 29 November 2008.


I lodge a breach of the code of conduct by Cr Michael Osborne.

In The Herald on Saturday 10th May 2008, Cr Osborne was quoted as saying the overseas study tour by Mr Brent Knowles and myself was “convenient” because of my marital status to Brent.

The Code of Conduct clearly states:

“5.1 You must avoid………conduct that;
• Causes, comprises or involved discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to employment.
• Causes, comprises or involves intimidation, harassment or verbal abuse

5.3 You must treat others with respect at all times.

5.6 You must not harass, discriminate against …….colleagues.”

Further, Council adopted a Media Policy in 2007 that states:

“5 Guiding Principles;
• Council officials …….should refrain from using the media to make negative person reflections ……or comments that could be interpreted as such and which are reasonably likely to undermine public confidence in the Council…”

I believe that Cr Osborne has discriminated against me on the basis of my marital status. I put it that if I was attending the overseas study with any other SMT member apart from Brent, he would not/could not have made the comment about the trip being “convenient” for me.

Not only do I believe he has acted discriminatively towards me, he has caused me embarrassment, denigrated me professionally and intimidated me. I am severely offended as I have not breached any policy and have acted in accordance of all requirements only to be belittled. Budget allocation for professional development had been established some years earlier specifically for SMT members and a full business case had been presented to the Overseas Travel Committee for approval to study at MIT. The Overseas Travel Committee unanimously endorsed the recommendation.

The code of conduct provides for protection of employees against adverse treatment and breaches of the like by Cr Osborne and leaves Council exposed to liability for Council failing to discharge its common law duty of care. This duty requires employers follow adopted policies and procedures which are designed to protect employees.


I believe that I am being victimised and by Cr Osborne as a consequence of my initial complaint.

On June 13th 2008, a further article was published in the Newcastle Herald in which Cr Osborne state he was called to a meeting with the Lord Mayor and acting General Manager “after Ms Walsh made a verbal complaint”. Cr Osborne is quoted as saying: It’s trying to gag what legitimately is in the public interest. ……….. These sort of frivolous complaints are a way of gagging councillors who are only trying to act in the best interests of the community”.

This statement reflects poorly on my behalf and implies that I am acting in bad faith. It reflects badly on me personally in a public setting and calls into question my bona fides as a senior officer.

In a forum where I am unable to defend myself, I have been exposed to ridicule, causing me embarrassment and humiliation.

Further, the Herald articles were pinned up onto the notice boards at the Depot which have caused me severe embarrassment with my workforce.

I feel this victimisation, bullying and harassment will continue in various forms, from further media articles to excessive and unreasonable work scrutiny, including work related expenses, malicious rumours, gossip and innuendo.

This innuendo is evidenced by the e-mail that was (I assume) inadvertently sent to Brent Knowles from (former) Cr Parsons. The e-mail was forwarded to (former) Cr Parsons from Cr Osborne and is clear evidence of work related harassment. It states:
From: Brent Knowles
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 3:37 PM
To: Janice Walsh; Graham Clarke
Subject: FW: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]

I am not sure what this is about? Looks like I may have been inadvertently included in the loop.


From: Keith Parsons []
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 11:30 AM
To: Brent Knowles; Cr Ian McKenzie; Cr Michael Osborne (Hunterlink); Cr Barbara Gaudry (Hunterlink); Cr Cassandra Arnold (Hunterlink); Cr Paul Scobie (Hunterlink)
Subject: FW: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]


From: Keith Parsons []
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 10:21 AM
To: ‘’; ‘Cr Ian McKenzie (Hunterlink)’; ‘Cassandra Arnold’
Subject: RE: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]

If you haven’t received a complaint in writing, detailing the exact nature of the complaint, there is no complaint.

She made no complaint about me, even though I commented in the Herald (& I gave you a copy of the leave application).
Did you admit leaking anything to the Herald?

From: Michael Osborne []
Sent: Thursday, 17 July 2008 3:33 PM
To: Cr Ian McKenzie (Hunterlink); Cassandra Arnold; Keith Parsons
Subject: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 15:20:28 +1000
From: Christine Minehan


Christine Minehan
Executive Assistant to General Manager /
Manager Council Services Team
Newcastle City Council
PO Box 489
P: 02 4974 2211
F: 02 4974 2201

I note that when the pervious General Manager, Janet Dore studied at Oxford University, she was not publicly or internally exposed to this level of ridicule or scrutiny. In fact, she was supported by Council to study overseas. Further, when the former Group Manager City Strategy, David Crofts went to a planning conference in the USA, he was not subjected to this scrutiny. Neither of their trips were publicised with intent to embarrass, humiliate, bully and harass.

As a professional correctly discharging my duties and obligations, following the comments by Cr Osborne, I no longer feel I am working in a safe environment. This is a breach of the OH&S Act in which Council is legally obliged to provide a safe working environment free of intimidation, harassment or threats.


In leaking my application to the overseas committee to the Herald, the first article published in May 2008 stated that Brent Knowles and myself were attending the MIT course “next month”. It also named the course we were attending. This left our property in a very vulnerable position. A person could easily have determined exactly when we would be absent and easily found out our address. This was a constant source of stress and worry whilst I was away.

Success comes through knowledge and application

I was invited to speak at the school presentation awards for Merewether High School

The school’s motto is “Scientia Ac Labore” (success comes through knowledge and application). It is one of only three fully academically selective high schools that sit outside the Sydney metropolitan area

This is my speech...

I am proud to be here and be able to present the special awards for highest academic achievement and highest sporting achievement.

I’m also proud as a father, because my daughter Louisa finished her HSC last year at Merewether, my son Jonathan finished a few years ago and my other daughter Harriet has been accepted into Merewether for next year.

All students here today should be proud of their achievement – not only proud of being accepted into Merewether in the first place but proud of your achievements over the years. And also proud of your Year 12 students.

The Greens believe that Governments have a responsibility to provide high quality public education for everyone

A well funded Public Education system is essential as it is the only system that can respond to the diverse educational needs of the whole community. Comprehensive public education contributes to the reduction of inequality, supports social cohesion and economic well being and creates a safer society.

Governments should be increasing the funding to great schools like Merewether, not increasing the subsidies to carbon polluting industries like the coal industry.

Investment in education is an investment in the future of our society. It’s an investment in you.

And that investment has paid off. Through the great education provided at Merewether you have the skills and knowledge to do whatever you want to do

Many of you will continue your studies at Uni or TAFE or elsewhere, many will take up employment – but you can all contribute to a better society, to a better future

Some former students of Merewether are playing their part for a better future for our world by pushing for a serious government response to the greatest emergency that we face, that of runaway climate change.

Those former students are pushing for a serious policy to address the emergency, they’re pushing for serious leadership from the state and federal governments.

They make us proud that they are standing up, to make the world a better place

And you will make us proud in whatever way you contribute to making, Newcastle and Australia and the world a better place for all.

As a great poet once said...
take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Follow your dreams and you can be proud...

and some feedback (by email)...

Dear Councillor Osborne,

Please accept my most sincere thanks on behalf of the students and staff of Merewether High, your attendance at our award presentation today was very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Development Application Meeting 16 December 2008

After the proposed industrial development in Tighes Hill had been rejected and then rescinded it came back to Council for a decision.

Note for the first meeting, Councillor Buman and King declared a non-pecuniary interest and were not in the room. For the second meeting, Councillors Buman, Connell and King declared non-pecuniary interests and were not in the room. For the third meeting, Councillors Buman and Connell declared non-pecuniary interests and left the room.

Councillors Luke and Boyd moved approval with some minor changes. Then I foreshadowed the previous motion to reject the application.


The application be rejected as previously outlined.


The matter be referred to the Newcastle City Council Traffic Committee to determine how to alleviate the additional traffic flow on Elizabeth Street Tighes Hill and the impact on Tighes Hill Public School.

Councillor Osborne requested the Mover and Seconder include the following additional conditions of consent:

1 Provision of a satisfactory operational plan for day to day supervision of the site, including an acceptable on-site complaints management system providing a single point of contact for resident enquiries and complaints, and a continuous on-site site supervision presence during hours of construction, and during the hours of operation once occupation of the site commences.

To provide a viable means of addressing any future adverse residential amenity impacts from site operations and to ensure ongoing compliance with conditions of consent.

2 The layout and design of buildings at the eastern frontage of the premises visible from the site entrance being modified so that future occupation of the site would bring it into compliance with the Newcastle Development Control Plan element 7.1.4(a)(ii).

To enhance the appearance of the development in accordance with the Development Control Plan, and to improve the quality of urban design.

3 An unrestricted public access way at least three metres wide being provided along the astern edge of the site from Elizabeth Street to Throsby Creek to be subject of a public right of way which is to be registered on Title prior to the issue of an Occupation Certificate. Full details in this regard are to be incorporated into plans submitted with the construction Certificate application.

Reason: To provide public access between Elizabeth Street and Throsby Creek in the public interest.

The Mover and Seconder declined to include the additional conditions of consent.

The Motion was put to the meeting and the Lord Mayor declared the vote would be taken by division which resulted as follows:

For the Motion: The Lord Mayor, Councillors G Boyd, B Cook, M King, B Luke and S Sharpe.
Against the Motion: Councillors S Claydon, T Crakanthorp, M Jackson, N Nelmes and M Osborne.

The Lord Mayor declared the Motion carried on the result of six votes to five votes.

Council meeting 16 December 2008

Outdoor Dining

I put forward a motion to improve the outdoor dining element of the Newcastle Development Control Plan. The Motion was carried unanimously, with the Lord Mayor adding that Council seek public voice representations from the Vision Impaired and Disabled Community during the time that it is on public exhibition.

That Newcastle City Council:

i. Reiterates its support for the objectives of the Outdoor Dining Element of the Newcastle Development Control Plan (DCP), namely to facilitate the creation of a cosmopolitan cafe atmosphere while ensuring equitable access and safety for the public.

ii. Amends the Outdoor Dining Element of the Newcastle DCP to include:

a. An addition to Clause 4.9.1 Approval Requirements to say:

Council will approve outdoor dining areas that comply with the guidelines outlined in this element.

However, Council will assess applications for alternative arrangements where the applicant can demonstrate that, on the merits of the individual case, the alternative arrangement will better achieve the objectives of the Outdoor Dining Element.

In assessing these applications, Council will take into account:
• The provision of a continuous path of travel for pedestrians within the footpath to ensure equitable access and dignity;
• The proximity of other outdoor dining areas;
• The frequency of use of the footpath;
• The features of the footpath including the width and construction;
• Traffic considerations including pedestrian and customer safety issues; and
• The ability of the premises to comply with the DCP requirements;

b. An addition to Clause 4.9.3 (b) (iii) and Clause 4.9.3 (b) (iv) to clarify where the 0.6 metres comes from and allow planter boxes as a suitable barrier:

iii) Where vehicles are permitted to park against the kerb, be at least 0.6 metres from the kerb edge to provide a safety buffer from vehicles and to enable passengers to alight from and access parked vehicles.

iv) Provide a suitable barrier (temporary, framed fabric style or comparable, planter box style or comparable commencing 30 mm maximum off the ground, having at least 30% luminance contrast with the pavement in front of the barrier of low height) aligned at each end of the outdoor dining area with the Outdoor Dining boundaries specified in 4.9.3 a) ii), and for the full length of the outdoor dining area parallel to the kerb, and if vehicle parking is permitted at the kerb, then at least 0.6 metres from the kerb edge.

c. Amend Clause 4.9.3 (b) (vi) to allow flexibility as per the road design guides:

At a street intersection corner be designed to reflect how the appropriate principles in AustRoads Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice – Part 5 and the RTA’s Road Design Guide have been applied to the intersection typology and traffic calming infrastructure in order to maximise public safety.

d. Remove inappropriate reference in Clause 4.9.3 (b) (viii)

Not be located adjacent to the road kerb where there are bus stops, taxi stands, disabled parking and the like (refer to 4.3 below ).

e. Amend Clause 4.9.3 (d) Consumption of alcohol to reflect new State Government legislation:

Alcohol may be supplied or consumed in an outdoor dining area subject to any requirements of the Liquor Act 2007.

iii. Places the proposed amendments to the Outdoor Dining Element of the Newcastle DCP on exhibition for at least 28 days.

iv. Makes the AustRoads Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice – Part 5 and the RTA’s Road Design Guide, referred to in the DCP, available at Council’s Corporate Counter and Public Library.


This notice of motion was submitted on 27 June 2008 and came before Council on 8 July 2008. At that meeting the Council decided by majority that: “The matter lie on the table pending the outcomes of the workshop to be held 28 August 2008.” That workshop has been held. Council should now make a decision to improve the Outdoor Dining Element of the Newcastle Development Control Plan 2005.

The Outdoor Dining Guidelines of the Newcastle Development Control Plan 2005 were adopted by Council on 6 June 2006 and were implemented on 1 July 2006.

While the guidelines have been generally appropriate for the majority of cases, there are some individual cases that highlight the need for amendments to the DCP.

Council was briefed by a number of cafe owners on 10 April 2008 in Public Voice.

The changes proposed above are to provide for a more flexible DCP where the alternative arrangements will better achieve the objectives of the Outdoor Dining Element. The changes also provide greater transparency on the issues where deviations from the DCP would be allowed.

A Container Deposit Scheme in NSW

Newcastle Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting a Container Deposit Scheme for NSW. Here is my motion below.

Noting that Council is obliged to represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers and to provide leadership and guidance to the community (Local Government Act 1993, Section 232)

That Newcastle City Council:

1. acknowledges the significant environmental, economic and social benefits to ratepayers of adopting a Container Deposit Scheme in NSW.

2. writes to the Premier urging him to implement such a scheme in NSW.


NSW has a recycling rate of around 40% for beverage containers.

South Australian has maintained a Container Deposit Scheme for the last 33 years. Enacted in 1975 under the Beverage Container Act 1975 and later incorporated into the Environment Protection Act 1993 (SA), CDL has been instrumental in the South Australia Government achieving a recycling rate of 70% to 80% in relation to beverage containers and providing a new income stream for community organisations and the States' most disadvantaged groups.

Container Deposit Legislation has the potential to:
• Reduce the volume of litter in our parks, beaches and roadsides by 12-15%;
• Significantly reduce the number of turtles, lizards, seals and birds killed by litter across Australia;
• Achieve a 6% diversion of all Solid Waste away from landfill;
• Reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by over 1.3 million tonnes of CO2e per year (equivalent to 197,000 homes switching to 100% renewable energy);
• Save enough water to permanently supply over 24,000 Australian homes;
• Deliver the same level of Australian air quality improvements as taking 140,000 cars off the road;
• Provide 250,000+ Australian homes with access to recycling services for the first time;
• Save rate payers over $59.8 million per annum; and
• Increase Australia's recycling by over 630,000 tonnes p.a.

An independent study of container deposits by Dr. Stuart White in 2001 states that:

"Local Government would realise financial benefits from the introduction of CDS through reduced costs of kerbside collection and through the value of unredeemed deposits in the material collected at kerbside"


I have been elected to a range of Council advisory committees. In general, these committees meet monthly. I have also been elected as chair of the Newcastle Environmental Advisory Panel.

These include

There are also three community forums that meet in Ward 1.
  • Mayfield Community Forum
  • Stockton Community Forum
  • Throsby Community Forum

Friday, 12 December 2008

Government declares “open season for developers” on Newcastle rail line, say Greens

Newcastle Greens
12 December 2008

Yesterday’s policy backdown by the NSW Labor government on the future of the Newcastle rail line was an act of political cowardice and betrayal, The Greens said today.

“Yesterday’s announcement by the Minister for the Hunter and state Member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, was simply a smoke-screen for signing the death-warrant for the Newcastle rail line,” Greens councillor Michael Osborne said.

“Effectively, the NSW government has now washed its hands of the Newcastle rail line, and handed over the future of Newcastle’s public transport system to private developers,” Cr Osborne said.

“Delegating the decision on the rail line to the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) is putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The HDC is a development corporation, not a planning body,” Cr Osborne said.

“The role of the HDC is to help facilitate development by the private sector on key State land holdings under its control. [see the HDC website]

“The current membership of the HDC Board includes well known anti-rail advocates.

“In the hands of the HDC, a decision to cut the Newcastle rail line is a foregone conclusion.

“What yesterday’s announcement means is that - as far as the NSW Labor government is concerned - it is now open season for developers on the Newcastle rail line.

“This is a policy backflip of mammoth proportions,” Cr Osborne said.

“Nothing in yesterday’s announcement indicates that the state government will even insist on anything as basic as improving the city’s public transport system, or making it more sustainable,” Cr Osborne said.

“In the light of this betrayal of trust, the so-called commitment to ‘keep the rail corridor in public ownership’ is simply not credible.

“Yesterday’s decision is a further blow to the plummeting credibility of NSW Labor, and yet another stab in the back to those in the Newcastle community who had placed their trust in the Labor Party,” Cr Osborne said.

Cr Osborne urged people who were concerned about the government's decision to attend tomorrow's public meeting organised by Save Our Rail at 12noon, at the Newcastle Leagues Club.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Local Government Constitutional Summit

I was a representative of Newcastle City Council at the Australian Local Government Association Local Government Constitutional Summit - A Special National General Assembly held from 8th December 2008 to 11th December 2008 in Melbourne.

The purpose of the historic Assembly was to discuss and reach a local government position on the constitutional recognition of local government.

As you could imagine given that Councillors came from all over Australia and from the full range of political backgrounds, the debate at the Assembly was 'robust'.

What was very surprising was that after two and half days of debate, consensus was reached.

The text is:


  • Local government existed in Australia prior to Federation;
  • Local government contributes more than 2 per cent of economic activity to GDP, through the employment of over 168,000 people, the custodianship of more than $200 billion of assets and the annual expenditure of over $23 billion on the services and infrastructure that allows Australian communities to develop and grow; and
  • The role of local government in the governance of the Australian Federation has been recognised by participation on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)

We the Mayors, Shire Presidents, Councillors and Aldermen, who are:

  • Democratically elected by the Australian people to councils throughout the Commonwealth; and
  • In attendance at this Local Government Constitutional Summit ­ A Special National General Assembly

Now declare
our commitment to achieve the recognition of local government as the third sphere of government in the paramount political document of the Australian Federation ­ the Australian Constitution.


  • Applaud the commitment of the Rudd Labor Government to constitutional recognition, and the Australian Labor Party and Coalition commitment to participate in the development of a referendum proposal on the constitutional recognition of local government; and
  • Commend the spirit of bipartisanship demonstrated by the passing of the Federal Parliamentary Resolution in 2006 recognising the importance of local government to our nation and our system of Australian Government.

Building on these developments and, whilst recognising the continuing importance of maintaining accountability and legislative frameworks for local government established by State and Territory Parliaments, we now declare our belief that constitutional recognition will assist the process of reforming the Australian Federation by:

  • Correcting the historical oversight of not recognising in Australia's paramount political document the level of government that is closest to the people;
  • Acting as a driver for local government participants to act in a transparent, fair and accountable manner;
  • Reinforcing the belief that local decision-making will ensure the provision of services and infrastructure that best meet local needs;
  • Reaffirming the concept that individuals and communities have the right to engage in the democratic processes of their local government area;
  • Advancing the relationship between all three spheres of government within the Australian Federation; and
  • Establishing a clear capacity for the Commonwealth to provide direct funding to local government, so as to improve or provide the infrastructure and services to meet the legitimate expectations of all Australians, whilst ensuring the sustainability of the local government sector.

We believe that to ensure the quality of planning and delivery of services and infrastructure provided to all Australians, and the ongoing sustainability of local government, any constitutional amendment put to the people in a referendum by the Australian Parliament (which could include the insertion of a preamble, an amendment to the current provisions or the insertion of a new Chapter) should reflect the following principles:

  • The Australian people should be represented in the community by democratically elected and accountable local government representatives;
  • The power of the Commonwealth to provide direct funding to local government should be explicitly recognised; and
  • If a new preamble is proposed, it should ensure that local government is recognised as one of the components making up the modern Australian Federation.

We call on the Australian Local Government Association, the State and Territory Associations and the councils of Australia to work with the:

  • Parliaments of Australia;
  • Governments of Australia;
  • Political Parties of Australia;
  • The Australian Council of Local Government;
and, most importantly, the
  • People of Australia.

So as to create and leave a stronger nation for future generations.

DATED this 11th Day of December 2008
Cr Geoff Lake On behalf of the Delegates Local Government Constitutional Summit

Thursday, 4 December 2008

What does a Councillor do?

I was invited along to a joint get-together of Tighes Hill Public School and Carrington Public School to talk about: "what does a Councillor do?"

The get-together was part of a Careers exercise, covering the whole range of careers in the community.

And the students asked some very insightful questions...

Well done to the students and the dedicated teachers who organised it.

Newcastle Council Annual Report

The first part of the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 that deals with the Council's Annual Report says

(1) (a) details (including the purpose) of overseas visits undertaken during the year by councillors, council staff or other persons while representing the council (including visits sponsored by other organisations)

So it was a little surprising, and unfortunate given the public interest in the whole issue of Council staff heading overseas, that this information had "inadvertently been left out".

More on this issue later...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Greens Launch Public Transport Senate Inquiry

World-class public transport must become a key component of nation building in the age of climate change and peak oil, and today the Australian Greens have launched a Senate Inquiry to begin the process.

Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam gave advance notice of the Inquiry today in the Senate and will formally move it tomorrow. "This is the first time this has ever been done," said Greens public transport spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.

"Building a Green Australia, responding to climate change, and shock-proofing our community against the impacts of peak oil all rely on properly investing in the nation's public transport."

"The Greens are initiating an audit of all public transport in Australia and an assessment of its' many benefits. Australia needs to clearly understand what public transport exists, what condition it is in, where the gaps are, and what can be done to increase its usage in the community."

The result will be a comprehensive snapshot of public transport in Australia, and a blueprint for action for the Government to begin making a major investment in public transport.

A Letter from a resident...

Letter to Newcastle City Council General Manager
(sent by email, published by permission)

Dear Lindy,

Last night the 2nd December 2008 the Councillors held a debate about Newcastle CBD’s future.

A key document to that debate was a 30 page discussion document by, I believe, Brent Knowles a member of Newcastle City Councils Senior Management Team.

That document presented information that was grossly misleading and not based on facts.

The first sentence states “This discussion paper seeks to provide Council with information about the existing movement systems.”

The document provides no such information other than scant cursory comment.

There is no specific information about rail services, bus services, taxi services, hire car services, airport connection services, pedestrian movement, cycle movements, ferry services or private motor car movements.

The document made no reference to the fact that the bus service is of a very high frequency, has far reaching destinations, is free during the day and despite this carries very low passenger numbers.

The second paragraph poses the question “why review the movement system”.

This paragraph uses totally misleading information and arrives at conclusions that are totally unreasonable.

Firstly according to NCC statistics Newcastle LGA has a population of only 141,172 in 58,000 occupied households. This is 4,260 lower than the peak Newcastle population in 1971. At the current growth rate of 3.2% it will take a number of years to reach to old peak.

Secondly the CBD is basically 3 locality areas.



Newcastle CBD



Newcastle East



Newcastle West






Change in previous 5 years



The discussion Paper by Mr Knowles indicates an additional 6,500 residents by 2033.

This would be a growth rate of over 300%. Given that the optimistic forecast for the Newcastle LGA is 31% by 2036 the population of 9566 would seem very unlikely.

It would only take 147 buses to move the entire Newcastle peninsula population (9566) predicted by Mr Knowles. With buses at 5 minute intervals as nominated by Mr Knowles the entire population could be removed and returned to the peninsula in 24 hours!

The ABS considers Newcastle as the seventh (not the sixth as quoted in the document) largest urban area with a population of 523,662 not 650,000 as quoted.

Mr Knowles claims Newcastle as the Capital City of the Hunter region. There is certainly no evidence to support this. Mr Knowles offers no supporting evidence from any of the other LGA’s. Lake Macquarie as the 9th largest LGA is about 30% larger and would certainly have solid arguments to claim the Capital Crown. Maitland with its massive growth rates likewise would have sound arguments.

I could comment further however I believe my comments thus far make my point.

In conclusion in my view there is no way any of the information contained in Mr Knowles document could be used in a submission to the Newcastle CBD Taskforce or any other body.

Submissions must be based on facts, sound statistics and rational arguments.

The funds spent by Newcastle City Council and Honeysuckle have only resulted in a population growth of 135 in the latest census period. This compares to the Islington increase of 134 and 1232 for Fletcher over the same period.

Rick Banyard

Major parties reject opportunity to debate Newcastle Rail cuts

Greens MP and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said the major parties’ decision today to block debate on a Greens motion calling on Premier Nathan Rees to retain the Newcastle rail line showed how out of touch both parties are with the needs of Hunter residents (full motion below).

"Labor and the Coalition shut down debate on the proposed cuts to Newcastle rail, despite the fact the government’s CBD taskforce is due to report next week and parliament does not sit again for three months," Ms Rhiannon said.

"It is not surprising that the Coalition were not interested in this issue as their leader, Barry O'Farrell, has already committed to removing the rail line in accord with GPT's wishes.

"It was revealing that Labor MPs failed to support debating this motion that congratulated their colleagues, local member Jodhi McKay and Transport Minister David Campbell for speaking in support of retaining the current rail line.

"Saying the debate on the future of Newcastle rail is not urgent for NSW Parliament to debate is like saying it’s not urgent to pull the handbrake on a runaway train.

"I am concerned that sections of the parliamentary Labor Party are loosing their resolve to retain the Newcastle Rail line.

"Their failure to back this motion stands in sharp contrast to the motion that Newcastle Labor councillors successfully moved on Newcastle Council last night.

"Their motion which passed unanimously supports the retention of the rail line until a fully costed and budgeted viable public transport system is developed.

"It is worrying that Labor MPs failed to back an opportunity to debate a motion that most people understand to be Labor policy - keeping the rail line between Wickham and the Newcastle CBD.

"The failure of Labor and the Opposition to agree to a debate has left us with a one sided view on whether the line should remain. Blocking debate in parliament effectively leaves developers GPT and their shonky surveys to occupy centre stage.

"It appears that GPT authorised the use of telephone 'push polling', resulting in dodgy survey results that a majority of residents support cutting the line," Ms Rhiannon said.

1. Ms Rhiannon to move—

1. That this House notes:

(a) that the developer General Property Trust (GPT) has stated that its proposed retail development in the Newcastle central business district will be withdrawn if the Government does not agree to fund the closure of the Newcastle rail line between Wickham and Newcastle,

(b) that Newcastle MP Jodi McKay stated in this year’s budget estimates, “I can assure you the Government will not give in to threats by developers ... at no time when they [GPT] were buying up properties around Newcastle did they say the development would hinge on the removal of the rail line.”,

(c) that Transport Minister David Campbell stated at this year’s budget estimates, “The Government has looked at this issue over a long period with the local community. It has come to a position supporting the community’s view that the heavy rail line should remain.”

(d) that the current rail line puts the beach, entertainment, commercial and tourist areas of Newcastle in easy access to Hunter residents and visitors, and provides the basis for sustainable, transit oriented development of the Newcastle central business district, and

(e) that community-based organisations in Newcastle have proposed alternatives for linking Newcastle Harbour and the cental business district, and for landscaping the Newcastle rail corridor.

2. That this House:

(a) congratulates Ms McKay and Mr Campbell for their public defence of the Newcastle rail line,

(b) recognises that the retention of the Newcastle rail service is crucial to the long term sustai nable development of Newcastle, and

(c) calls on Premier Nathan Rees to accept the advice of his Transport Minister and the Member for the Hunter and retain the rail line and service to Newcastle station.

(Notice given 2 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.

Supporting our rail line

Here is the motion I moved at Council last night.

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.

Unfortunately, it wasn't voted on because, after the Liberal Party's motion was defeated, the next motion debated was from Cr Nelmes. Cr Nelmes' motion is shown below and was supported by all councillors.

Part A

That Newcastle City Council:

a) Affirms our commitment to the revitalisation of the city centre as a key strategic priority for this council.

b) Supports in-principle GPT's proposal to redevelop the Hunter Street Mall and acknowledges the body of work associated with this proposal.

c) Acknowledges the decisions regarding the inner city rail line are ultimately a matter for the State Government, who own and operate the infrastructure and land in question.

d) Advocates on behalf of the community and seeks State and Federal Governments to provide a viable fully integrated public transport system that considers all options to improve services, access and connectivity.

e) Believes that existing rail 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.

f) Supports the retention and continuing utilisation of a dedicated transport corridor (which is currently zoned “transport corridor” by council) in the inner city and does not support the sale of any land along the existing corridor.

g) Recognises the need to provide improved access and connectivity between the foreshore and the city and will work with the State Government to provide additional pedestrian and vehicular crossings across the transport corridor as part of the plan.

h) Supports enhanced transport links to and from the city and the development of a modern transport interchange for future growth.

Part B

That Newcastle City Council makes a submission to the Newcastle CBD Taskforce requesting that the project opportunities in the discussion paper, which comply with Part A, be considered for funding.

Policies, commitments and emails

Some in the community like to see how long it takes after an election for politicians to change their stance.

In the case of "independents" who don't publish any policies or commitments, it is very hard to know where they stand.

But, sometimes, during the heat of an election campaign, some make commitments in writing or by email.

In August 2008, election hopeful Scott Sharpe, wrote this email in response to an email from a resident:

At this time I will maintain support for the rail line to Newcastle as I do not believe that a suitable set of conditions has been proposed for its removal. I am particularly concerned as to what might happen to the land if the rail is removed.

However, I am not against moving heavy rail out of the CBD if the correct set of parameters were in place.

a. That light rail replace heavy rail with provision for a conjoint cycleway
b. That a new and integrated transport hub is built at Broadmeadow
c. That the land is dedicated as parkland and is not sold
d. That Scott St and the rail corridor is landscaped and integrated with the CBD

Broadmeadow is a natural centre for a transport hub. The John Hunter, Westfield Kotara, Mater Hospital and Energy Australia Stadium are all key destinations of the city that need to be serviced by public transport. Introducing light rail into the CBD could be an exciting catalyst that would see light rail spread to other key destinations.



Last night at Council, 3 months after the election, newly elected Councillor Sharpe supported the Liberal Party Cr Luke motion to cut the rail, without any of the "parameters" being met.

Part A
That Council consider the above list of project opportunities and provide a submission to the Newcastle CBD Taskforce requesting that these projects be included in any recommendations made to the Commonwealth's Infrastructure Australia funding program.

Part B
That Council affirms its position on the revitalisation of the CBD and considers the future transport options for the city, in particular the construction of a transport interchange at a future designated high density site. This interchange would link with a bus and ferry system to service the CBD, beaches and the inner suburbs. The Newcastle CBD, with the removal of the existing rail link, would be reconnected with its working harbour and be exposed to recreational and retail connectivity that would generate increased trade and prosperity for the greater Newcastle area.

Note Part B was actually a Notice of Motion from the Liberal Party Cr Luke and Cr Sharpe submitted on the 20th November 2008.

Councillor Sharpe's contact details can be found here.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Council meeting 2 December 2008

Apart from the rail issue, Council also dealt with an item to fix up clerical errors in the Newcastle LEP that occurred when the City Centre LEP was rushed through.

One of these was the do with local heritage listing of a number of Newcastle's buildings.

Before the gazettal of the City Centre LEP, these buildings had been through the process of investigation, public exhibition and heritage listing. Yet, somehow, these buildings were "de-listed" with the gazettal of the City Centre LEP.

Here's the list of buildings...

I moved the council officer's recommendation to fix up all the mistakes, including the heritage listing of these buildings. The following councillors supported my amendment.

For the amendment
Councillors T Crakanthorp, M Jackson, N Nelmes and M Osborne.

Against the amendment
The Lord Mayor, Councillors G Boyd, A Buman, S Claydon, B Cook, M King, B Luke and S Sharpe.

The conservatives and Labor Councillor Claydon voted that:

That the items referenced in Schedule 5 - Environmental Heritage, Clauses 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 be deleted from Council's decision and the relevant adjustments made by Council Officers. The items listed be included in the formation of the next LEP along with other submissions received at the time in consideration of that Plan.

You will notice that the Former Lyrique Theatre (now owned by GPT) and TPI House (apparently the University wants the site for expansion of it's City campus) are on the list and no longer have heritage protection.

The full list is
  • Northumberland County Council Building 20 Auckland Street
  • Commercial Building 6 Bolton Street
  • Newcastle Herald Building 28 Bolton Street
  • The Bowery 37 Bolton Street
  • Remains of AA Co. Bridge and Fence 280 Hunter Street
  • Former Lyrique Theatre 98 King Street (Wolfe Street)
  • Former Volunteer Fire Station 115 King Street
  • Central Hall 141 King Street
  • Former Wool Exchange 149 King Street
  • TPI House (Former Mackie's Warehouse) 231 King Street
  • City Arcade and Former Corporation Baths 11 Newcomen Street
  • Former Primitive Methodist Manse 29 Perkins Street
  • Union Steamship Building 31-33 Watt Street
  • The Cowrie Hole (rock platform) Off Shortland Esplanade
  • Cambridge Hotel 791 Hunter Street
  • Newcastle Synagogue 122 Tyrrell Street
  • Wickham Residence 15 Charles Street

Lynches Prawns site
At this meeting I also tried to have the Lynches Prawns site classified as community land and rezoned as open space. But this was defeated by the majority of Councillors.

Improved cycling facilities

Council meeting 2 December 2008

The conservatives tried to rescind the improvements to the Newcastle Development Control Plan with regard to cycling facilities.

The decision of the Strategic Policy Committee on 11 November 2008 in respect of Item
No. 17 - Amendment to Newcastle DCP 2005 - Draft Element 4.1 Parking and Access, be rescinded.

However, I agreed to defer the matter pending a briefing.

The matter be deferred and a full report be supplied on the implications of the motion as presented by Councillor Osborne at the meeting of 11 November 2008 including a briefing by Council Officers and the Newcastle Cycleways Movement.

Conservatives want more foreshore development

Here is a copy of the Discussion paper prepared by Mr Knowles from Newcastle Council, that hasn't been posted on the Council website with tonight's Business Papers...

Monday, 1 December 2008

Housing Free-for-All Will Trigger Neighbourhood Disputes

The number of neighbourhood disputes will skyrocket as new government housing codes allow new and renovated houses to overshadow neighbouring homes with those affected having no right to object, according to Sylvia Hale NSW Greens MP and Planning Spokesperson.

"This is the next step in the development free-for-all this government is attempting to inflict on communities across the state," said Ms Hale, responding to reports that the new codes will not stipulate a maximum floor space ratio, and therefore allow for overdevelopment of housing sites.

"The government has not consulted on these new codes, it is just forcing them on residents."

"Under new planning laws if a house meets the code it can be approved by a private certifier paid for by the proponent. The local council and the neighbours need only be notified when building is about to start. Even then they will have no right to object."

"Drafts of earlier codes were available for comment but it is clear that they were merely a diversion during the debate on the changes to the planning laws. Now the Bill is through those draft codes are withdrawn and the free-for-all codes that the government and developers always wanted are being imposed."

"A typical tactic of both developers and this government is to push controversial matters through over the Christmas break to short circuit community opposition. That is exactly what the government is trying to do with these codes."

"This government continues to treat communities and local councils with contempt. Once again it is failing to consult, failing to consider the impact on existing residents and failing to consider the needs of anyone other than the development lobby that continues to pour millions of dollars into Labor's campaign funds," said Ms Hale.