Friday, 29 May 2009

Bullock Island Rail Corridor

Here's a copy of the Notice of Motion that I submitted, with Cr Claydon, on 29 May 2009.



That Newcastle City Council initiate relevant clarifications or amendments to environmental planning instruments associated with the possible future use of the former Bullock Island rail corridor in Wickham (referred to as the “Possible Future Transport Corridor” shown on the gazetted Wickham Redevelopment Area Map (sheet WRA – 001) of the Newcastle City Centre Local Environmental Plan 2008) to ensure that:

  1. 1. the instruments reflect the objective of the Wickham DCP for stronger pedestrian links between the residential area and Wickham Park,
  2. 2. the corridor is developed in accordance with the Wickham DCP and is retained for future pedestrian-friendly, ecologically sustainable transport (such as rail trams, light rail and cycleways) development, and
  3. 3. the instruments specifically preclude future use of the corridor for major road or heavy rail development.

Council developed a Development Control Plan specifically for Wickham to ensure that the redevelopment and renewal of Wickham balances local character with economic, social and environmental issues.

The Wickham DCP was drafted after extensive consultation and involvement with the local community through community meetings (including the Throsby Community Forum) and informal walk and talk gatherings which Council staff said “provided an excellent opportunity for the community to express their views on the built form and history of their suburb”.

The Wickham DCP was adopted by Council on 27 November 2007.

The Wickham DCP has a number of objectives including to:
• achieve sustainable growth through quality medium density residential mixed use development
• strengthen Wickham’s sense of place as a traditional working suburb that is walkable and self sufficient and supports its local community
• creates stronger linkages with the surrounding suburbs

The retention of the former Bullock Island rail corridor was specifically included in the Wickham DCP to:
• interpret a part of Wickham’s history
• improve connectivity and amenity on the existing site
• increase accessibility from surrounding area to Wickham Park
• create an intimate residential environment

The Wickham DCP envisaged a minimum 8 metre wide pedestrian/ cycle access with a minimum 2 metre wide median to allow for medium size trees (clause 6.8.5e).

However, when the Newcastle City Centre LEP 2008 was gazetted on Friday, 1 February 2008 the only mention of the Bullock Island rail corridor was a reference to a “Possible Future Transport Corridor” shown on the gazetted Wickham Redevelopment Area Map (sheet WRA – 001)

This “Possible Future Transport Corridor” is undefined in any of the relevant environmental acts, regulations or environmental planning instruments.

This lack of definition and speculation by some people in the media has resulted in understandable concern and anxiety in the local community.

This motion aims to clarify Council’s intention with regards to the former Bullock Island rail corridor in Wickham, referred to as the “Possible Future Transport Corridor”.

    Tuesday, 26 May 2009

    Thumbs up to city campus, thumbs down to rail cut

    Newcastle Greens
    26 May 2009

    The Greens today welcomed newly released plans for a city campus, but said that the rehashed proposal to cut the city’s rail line was both an embarrassment and a missed opportunity.

    “The Greens have long advocated a greater university presence in the city, and it’s good to see that the Hunter Development Corporation’s revitalisation strategy supports this.

    “But 8,000 more students and university workers in the city make the need for better rail services even greater.

    “The Hunter Development Corporation’s report arguing for cutting the Newcastle rail line is simply a rehash of previously discredited attempts to take the rail line away from the community,” Cr Osborne said.

    “It’s based on biased assumptions and flawed methodology, and fails to produce a proposal capable of uniting the community around a commonly shared, environmentally sustainable vision for the city’s future,” Cr Osborne said.

    “The plan’s proposal to cut the rail line in order to expand road transport will condemn the city to an unsustainable future of increased car use, and all the problems that such a strategy entails.

    “Preliminary examination of the argument and the costing behind the report’s cut-the-rail proposal indicate that an anti-rail bias has been built in to the assessment methodology,” Cr Osborne said.

    “If they are serious about this exercise, both state and federal governments should look carefully and critically at the way the report assesses the options.

    “Trying to get federal infrastructure and revitalisation funding based on a sloppy proposal to cut a rail line will be simply embarrassing for Newcastle, and may actually jeopardise our chances,” Cr Osborne said.

    Sunday, 24 May 2009

    Liberal Councillor found ducking and weaving

    Newcastle Greens
    24 May 2009

    Recent public statements by Newcastle Liberal Councillor Brad Luke about the sources of his election campaign funding contradict what he has told a council meeting, according to Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne.

    In response to criticisms from Cr Osborne regarding Cr Luke’s blank election funding disclosure form, an article in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald (“Check draws and blank”, p.14) quoted Cr Luke as saying that “the money that was used to get him elected was donated to the Liberal Party. Money was raised by the party and expenses incurred by the party.”

    Yet Cr Luke told a meeting of Newcastle City Council’s Development Applications Committee on 27 January this year that he “had not received any funds from the Liberal Party” (see excerpt of official council minutes below).

    “In January, Cr Luke was telling us that the Liberal Party did not fund his election campaign, and now he’s telling us it did,” Cr Osborne said.

    “Which version is true?

    Cr Luke’s original denial of Liberal Party funding was in response to a complaint that he had not disclosed a conflict of interest in a development at Wallsend.

    On that occasion, Cr Luke argued that the developer (Hilton Grugeon) was a donor to the Liberal Party, and that - because the Liberal Party had not provided any funding to his election campaign - he could not therefore have a conflict of interest.

    “It’s not acceptable for Cr Luke to now simply change his story to explain his blank electoral funding disclosure form,” Cr Osborne said.

    “Councillor Luke’s rubber-stamp approach to development has already prompted community concerns about conflicts of interest, and Cr Luke owes it to the Newcastle community to clarify which explanation is correct, and to tell the whole truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth about who funded his election campaign and how the money was spent.

    Cr Osborne said that the matter also had serious implications for the Liberal Party.

    “The Herald story quotes Cr Luke as saying that the Liberal Party advised him to leave his electoral funding disclosure form blank.”

    “Cr Luke’s party is putting itself forward as the alternative government at the next NSW election, so it’s important that they now clarify their approach to full and open electoral funding disclosure.

    “Cr Luke’s example suggests that the Liberal Party would be no better in this than the current state Labor government,” Cr Osborne said.

    Below is the full transcript (from the officially adopted minutes of Newcastle Council’s Development Applications Committee of 27 January 2009 [these can be found on the council website.]

    Councillor Brad Luke

    Councillor Luke made a statement in relation to Item 2 – Review of Council Resolution Regarding DA 06/0675 – 71-79 Abbott Street, 67 Douglas Street & 108-114 Newcastle Road Wallsend particularly in reference to the Code of Conduct complaints. He advised that he had not mentioned Mr Hilton Grugeon when he presented the development application. He believed most people knew it was Mr Grugeon who had presented the DA. He raised two points – Mr Grugeon had donated funds to the Liberal Party and he had donated funds to several political parties over the years however Councillor Luke made a statement that this had not raised a conflict of interest for him as he had not received any funds from the Liberal Party so therefore could not have gotten a benefit from any of Mr Grugeon’s contributions and any contribution Mr Grugeon made to his campaign was below the amount required. Councillor Luke stated he would only be required to assess whether their would be a conflict of interest. He stated that after making that assessment, following discussions with Council’s Legal Services Officer, he had no conflict of interest in regard to this matter.

    Friday, 22 May 2009

    Liberal shows contempt for residents

    Newcastle Greens
    22 May 2009

    Newcastle Greens today accused Newcastle Council’s sole Liberal councillor, Cr Brad Luke, of failing to disclose where his council election campaign funding had come from, and of treating residents and the election funding disclosure process with contempt.

    Greens councillor Michael Osborne said that Cr Luke was the only Newcastle councillor who had not disclosed any of his electoral funding for last year’s council election on 13 September in his electoral funding disclosure forms that are now available on the NSW Electoral Funding Authority’s website.

    Under the election funding rules, councillors who headed a group ticket in the September election (such as Cr Luke, who headed the Liberal’s Ward 2 ticket) were required to lodge two returns: one as an individual candidate, and one as the head of their group.

    Both Cr Luke’s returns on the EFA website tick the box “No political donations received and no expenditure incurred during disclosure period”. All other sections of both forms have been left blank.

    “The public has a right to know who did fund Cr Luke’s campaign, and Cr Luke has a responsibility to provide that information,” Cr Osborne said.

    In January this year, Cr Luke stated in the council chamber that he had received no funds from the Liberal Party for his election campaign.

    “If Cr Luke funded his own campaign, his return forms should show how much he spent, and itemise the expenditure he incurred. If others contributed to his campaign, the forms require this to be stated. Every other Newcastle councillor has done this,” Cr Osborne said.

    “Cr Luke and the Liberal Party are clearly treating the election disclosure process with contempt.

    “Whilst the election funding process is not perfect, it is designed to ensure that residents can find out who funded councillors’ election campaigns, so they can monitor which councillors might have conflicts of interest.

    “This is particularly important with councillors who consistently vote in favour of development interests – as Cr Luke has,” Cr Osborne said.

    “But Cr Luke’s election funding returns make a mockery of the disclosure process, and provide no information at all to anyone who might want to check them to see who funded his election campaign.”

    Cr Osborne said that he had lodged a complaint with the Election Funding Authority regarding Cr Luke’s declarations.

    The Liberal return...

    Tuesday, 19 May 2009

    Deputy Lord Mayor

    This is my last week as the Deputy Lord Mayor, with Clr Boyd taking up the position from next Tuesday.

    At the first Council meeting of the new Term I was elected Deputy Lord Mayor, see Council meeting 30 September 2008.

    I gave a presentation and answered questions from the students of Tighes Hill Public School and Carrington Public School (4 December 2008), see What does a Councillor do?.

    I gave a speech at the Merewether High School Presentation Day (17 December 2008), see Success comes through knowledge and application.

    I welcomed Deborah De Williams, who is running around Australia to raise awareness and money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, to the City (28 January 2009), see National Breast Cancer Foundation.

    I launched Katheryn Gilshenen’s new book ”Winston’s Birthday – It’s a beautiful day!” at the Newcastle Region Library Lovett Gallery (11 February 2009), see Happy birthday Winston.

    I officially opened the 2009 Travelling Film Festival, and enjoyed the screening of the AFI-winning short film animation Dog with Electric Collar (15 May 2009), see 2009 Travelling Film Festival.

    Council meeting 19 May 2009

    The two meetings tonight covered 24 different items, including:
    • Cycling
    • Our Laman St trees
    • The Bullock Island rail corridor
    • The "standard" LEP
    • The regional museum
    • Code of conduct reports

    • Cycling

      Despite the elected Council resolving to establish a Newcastle Cycling Committee to help Council develop and implement a cycling strategy (see my earlier post), staff brought a draft updated Bike Plan to the elected Council for exhibition.

      Council resolved the following:
    1 That a Cycling Working Party be established as a working party of the Newcastle Environmental Advisory Panel (NEAP), incorporating the Terms of Reference and Membership set out in Council’s NOM 17/02/09 – “A Newcastle Cycling Strategy and Action Plan”.

    2 That the draft Newcastle Bike Plan 2009 be referred to the Cycling Working Party for consideration within the context of establishing a Newcastle Cycleway Strategy, and the feedback generated by the Cycling Working Party be provided to Council via Council's committee system.

    Resolved: Councillors M Osborne/ G Boyd

    Our Laman Street Trees

    Staff brought a report to the elected Council to remove and replace the street trees in Laman Street from Darby Street to Dawson Street, without any benchmarks comparing the level of public risk.

    For example, how does the public risk from the trees compare to the risk from crossing the road?.

    The axe was postponed with the following Council resolution:

    1 Council notes the 3-page officer’s report dated 15 May 2009, including that the “trees have been assessed as having a remaining life expectancy of between 5 and 15 years”

    2 Council receive an appropriately phased replacement strategy for the individual trees, including costed options that
    a Recognise the value that the mature trees bring to Laman Street
    b Preserve the canopy cover and landscape qualities of Laman Street
    c Investigate a range of risk management approaches with the view to retaining the trees for as long as practicably possible
    d Notes the benefit of staggering the cost over a number of years
    e Commence growing the replacement trees

    Resolved: Councillors M Osborne/ N Nelmes

    Bullock Island rail corridor

    Council considered a report to correct a number of mapping anomalies/ discrepancies, drafting errors and miscellaneous clause amendments to the Newcastle City Centre LEP 2008.

    These included a slight boundary adjustment to the Bullock Island rail corridor to ensure that the possible future transport corridor is primarily located on State Rail Property.

    Councillor Buman moved not to have the adjustments made to the gazetted "possible future transport corridor", leaving the incorrect boundaries in place!

    Fortunately, Council resolved the following:

    A It is recommended that Council resolve to adopt the draft Local Environmental Plan (draft LEP) (Attachment A), to correct a number of mapping anomalies/discrepancies, drafting errors and miscellaneous clause amendments to Newcastle City Centre LEP 2008 and advise the Director-General, Department of Planning in accordance with sections 68 and 69 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act, 1979 (the Act).

    B Council receive a briefing on the transport corridor and its impact once Council's Transport Study is completed. The impact on residents of Gordon Avenue be addressed at the briefing.

    Resolved: Councillor M Osborne/ N Nelmes

    The "standard" LEP

    Council has been directed by the Department of Planning to convert our existing Local Environment Plan (LEP) into a "standard" "one size fits all" LEP by March 2011. Council staff brought forward a report to obtain a formal Council resolution.

    Council resolved the following:

    1 Council resolve to:
    a prepare a draft comprehensive Local Environment Plan (LEP) in accordance with the standard instrument for LEPs and notify the Director-General of its decision pursuant to sections 54(1) and (2) of the Act;

    b fast-track the finalisation of
    (i) The Residential Development Strategy
    (ii) The Commercial Space Audit
    (iii) The Newcastle Industrial Lands Analysis
    for inclusion in the draft comprehensive LEP

    c report the draft comprehensive LEP to Council following section 62 consultations and prior to being placed on public exhibition; and

    2 Council convey its concern to the NSW Premier, the Minister for Planning and the Minister for the Hunter in relation to the state government’s requirement for council to adopt a template LEP and the associated loss of capacity for council to adapt its key strategic land use planning instrument to Newcastle’s special needs and circumstances.

    3 Council receive a public briefing from relevant council officers and Department of Planning representatives in relation to the implications of this requirement for council’s LEP.

    Resolved: Councillors M Osborne/ G Boyd

    The regional museum

    Council staff sought endorsement from the elected Council for the proposed Museum Redevelopment budget. Council made it clear that the staff were not to blow the budget or continue to come back to Council for more money. The 2003 estimates suggested a range of best and worst case figures of $13.437 million to $16.498 million (2003 dollars), while the current budget is $23.53 million - a shameful increase. Ratepayers total contribution is $8,296,000.

    The resolution was:

    A Council endorse the income and expenditure budget as outlined at the Council in the Financial Impact section of this report.

    B Council authorise Council officers to seek tenders to undertake the work package outlined in the pre-tender documents which were the subject of independent analysis and provided to Councillors on 28 April 2009.

    C Council nominates Councillors M King, B Cook and M Jackson to serve on a Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of the Museum Redevelopment project.

    D Council resolves that Council's contribution to the budgeted amount of $23,530,000.00 is absolute and shall not be exceeded.

    Resolved: Councillors A Buman/ M Osborne

    Code of Conduct report #1

    Two allegations were reviewed by Sole Reviewer Ms Kath Roach in relation to Councillor King’s failure to appropriately disclose and manage a conflict of interests, in particular, his friendship with Mr Mitchell, an employee of an applicant for a development application.

    The full report is here.

    Council accepted the recommendations of the Code of Conduct reviewer and resolved to:

    1 Council receive and note the contents of this report.

    2 Council censure Councillor Michael King, the subject of these complaints for the matters raised in this report and in particular, for a breach of provisions 6.8; 7.2; 7.13 and 7.17(b) of the Newcastle City Council Code of Conduct, in relation to his failure to adequately manage and disclose a non pecuniary significant conflict of interests with Mr Mitchell, an employee of the applicant for DA07/1195.

    Resolved: Councillors S Claydon/ G Boyd

    Code of Conduct report #2

    Councillors Luke and Buman made allegations against me regarding my friendship with Mr Sutton, who spoke against a proposed industrial development in Tighes Hill. The allegations were reviewed by Sole Reviewer Ms Kath Roach.

    The full report is here.

    Council accepted the recommendations of the Code of Conduct reviewer and resolved to:

    1 That Council receive and note the contents of this report.

    2 That Council takes no action against Councillor Michael Osborne, the subject of these complaints.

    Resolved: Councillors S Connell/ M Jackson

    Friday, 15 May 2009

    2009 Travelling Film Festival

    I had the pleasure of opening the 2009 Travelling Film Festival when it came back to Newcastle today.

    The Sydney Travelling Film Festival returned to Newcastle tonight at the Greater Union Cinemas in King St. The Festival travels around the country offering local audiences a great selection of world cinema and Australian films.

    A particular highlight was the AFI-winning animation Dog with Electric Collar, that was the first film screened.

    The program included great films over the entire weekend and one of the organisers told me that the opening night surpassed all previous years.

    Thanks to Dan Cox, from 2NC, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the opening and to Sarah Lancaster, the manager of the Travelling Film Festival.

    Well done everyone involved!

    Wednesday, 6 May 2009

    Council meeting 5 May 2009

    Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study

    Council received a report presenting the results of the Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study. The Study was prepared in response to and in accordance with the NSW Coastline Management Manual, in partnership with the NSW Government and Newcastle Port Corporation.

    Council resolved the following:

    Council acknowledges the management options outlined at the Councillor Workshop and adopt the artificial headland with beach nourishment option (option 4) as the preferred management option for detailed design, scoping and cost.

    Council write to the NSW Premier to advise the Premier of the magnitude of the remediation works required and request that the Premier establish a Task Force to identify suitable funding sources to implement the Stockton Beach Coastal Zone Management Study.

    Resolved: Councillor Luke/Osborne

    The experts say that Option 4 (artificial headland and beach nourishment) is the "most effective coast protection measure that reorients the beach to a stable profile". The option has an estimated capital cost of $31.2 million and an on-going maintenance cost of $50,000 per year.

    Given that the construction and operating activities of the Newcastle Port have substantially contributed to erosion of Stockton Beach, the State Government, which receives the dividends from the Newcastle Port Corporation, should substantially contribute to the rectification of the problem.