Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Sham process on Newcastle rail options should be scrapped

Newcastle Greens
4 February 2009

The Hunter Development Corporation's decision on consultants to investigate Newcastle rail line options will reinforce community fears that the process is a sham Greens elected representatives said today.

Greens MP and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said that the consultancy plans are not independent, as two of the key players have already called for cutting the Newcastle rail line.

HDC has engaged Parsons Brinckerhoff to examine the options for the future of the rail line, and an urban design reference group to advise them on city renewal work.

The General Manager of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Glenn Thornton, as the Chief Executive Officer of the Hunter Business Chamber, and Professor Steffen Lehmann, who will head up the urban design reference group, have both been strong public advocates for cutting the rail line.

"The consultancy process just treats the people of the Hunter with contempt. The NSW government can't expect the local community to take this seriously," Ms Rhiannon said.

Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne said "After the Minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay, handed over the future of the rail line to the Hunter Development Corporation in December last year, I and others in the local community called on the NSW government to ensure the independence and integrity of the assessment process.

"Our concerns are based on the composition of the HDC board, which is stacked with anti-rail advocates including Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate. The track record of the HDC's predecessors - the Honeysuckle Development Corporation and the Hunter Economic Development Corporation - who were both strong opponents of the Newcastle rail line has reinforced our view that this process is not fair.

"These latest revelations show that our concerns were well founded," Cr Osborne said.

Ms Rhiannon said, "The process will not create an independent and rigorous evaluation of options for the rail line at all. It is a taxpayer-funded campaign with a pre-determined outcome, designed to give developers what they have wanted throughout their twenty year campaign to grab prime inner-city public land in the heart of Newcastle.

"If the Minister for the Hunter is even half serious about the credibility of the assessment process, she should immediately intervene to stop this farce, before it blows up in her face.

"Ms McKay suffered the largest swing recorded against any state Labor candidate when she was elected to the seat of Newcastle in 2007. This was a clear message to the NSW government not to take the Newcastle community for granted. Today's news shows they are still not listening to this message," Mr Rhiannon said.

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