Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Greens welcome Cabinet rail-cut refusal

Newcastle Greens
29 July 2009

Newcastle Greens today welcomed the NSW Cabinet’s refusal to agree to a proposal to cut the Newcastle rail line at its meeting yesterday.

"This is a promising sign that the NSW government may finally be looking beyond the empty rhetoric of the anti-rail lobby, and examining the public policy deficiencies in what they are proposing," Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne said.

"As public submissions are now demonstrating, the current HDC report proposing removal of the rail line is based on discredited and flawed data, major errors of fact, and gross misrepresentations.

"Rather than presenting this report to Cabinet, the Minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay, should initiate an independent review of both the process and content of the HDC report, with a view to correcting its many flaws, and urgently developing a credible proposal for city revitalisation that gives the city a real chance of gaining federal funding assistance.

"Any federal government genuinely interested in improving public transport infrastructure is not going to waste public money on removing a rail line, and to take such a proposal further will just make Newcastle and NSW the laughing stock of the nation," Cr Osborne said.

Cr Osborne said that the key catalyst project identified in the HDC report for revitalising the city was the development of a university city campus.

"This project would be an excellent candidate for federal infrastructure and revitalisation funding, and could proceed immediately with across-the-board community support,” Cr Osborne said.

"Unfortunately, in its efforts to construct a case for cutting the rail line, the HDC has misrepresented the future development of a university campus as ‘contingent on removing the rail line’.

"It’s time for the HDC to publicly admit that this is not true, and to modify their recommendations (and their cost-benefit assessment) accordingly, so that the city can take a united and credible case for infrastructure and revitalisation funding to the federal government.

"If they do this, the HDC and the Minister will gain the support of the local and regional community, and give us a fighting chance of winning federal government funding. However, if they continue with their current flawed, divisive, narrow and anachronistic agenda to cut the Newcastle rail line, they will have to bear the responsibility for the consequences."

Cr Osborne said that an agreement to cut the line at yesterday’s cabinet meeting would also have been an act of contempt for the public consultation process on the HDC report, since submissions on this are still flowing in, and could not have been properly processed or considered at this point.

The HDC is yet to brief local councils (including Newcastle and Lake Macquarie) on its report.

"Yesterday’s Cabinet decision gives the HDC, the Minister for the Hunter, and the NSW Government the opportunity to pause, reflect and change tack on the issue of the Newcastle rail line and the city’s revitalisation, and we urge them to now put good public policy and the interests of the community before the vested interests for the anti-rail lobby," Cr Osborne said.

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