Thursday, 3 June 2010

Anti-rail group fixing to kill Hunter St businesses

Newcastle Greens
3 June 2010

Newcastle Greens today warned Newcastle businesses that the plan advocated by anti-rail lobby group Fix Our City would kill city businesses that rely on loading zones and turnover car-parking along Hunter St.

Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne said that presenters from Fix Our City who briefed Newcastle City councillors on Tuesday night confirmed that they wanted the Hunter Development Corporation’s Revitalisation Report adopted in its entirety.

“As its alternative to the rail line, the HDC plan advocates a busway along Hunter St that would eliminate loading zones and hundreds of turnover car parking spaces on which already struggling Hunter St businesses depend for their survival,” Councillor Osborne said.

“This is graphically illustrated on page 80 of the HDC report that Fix Our City is backing,” Councillor Osborne said. [see included graphics from the HDC Report]

Councillor Osborne said that he was concerned that the Fix Our City representatives who spoke to Newcastle Council on Tuesday night appeared to be unaware of this implication of the HDC report that they were supporting, despite Newcastle businesses constantly identifying the availability of car parking in the city as a major priority for them.

“They had no real answer to my question about this obvious impact on local businesses of the HDC’s proposed busway – which is surprising from a group that purports to be representing business interests in the city. Since Fix Our City agrees with the HDC’s proposed busway as the replacement for the rail line, you’d expect that they would be have examined the potential impacts of that proposal on businesses in the area of the city that most need revitalisation,” Councillor Osborne said.

“But it was evident on Tuesday night that they hadn’t even considered this potential impact.

“I’m concerned that the vested interests who have been campaigning to cut the Newcastle rail line for two decades are so obsessed with their anti-rail campaign that they haven’t stopped to consider the real implications of the HDC report for city businesses,” he said.

“Obviously, if they aren’t even aware of this aspect of the HDC report, they haven’t made the businesses along Hunter St aware of it either.

“Neither the HDC nor the Fix Our City lobby have any answer to how they would solve this problem for the already struggling businesses along Hunter St, or where the extra and replacement car parking and loading zone spaces that would be required would be found.

“Perhaps the answer is hidden on page 55 of the HDC Report, which lists parking and standing for service vehicles under “possible future uses of the rail corridor”? Councillor Osborne said.

“I’m sure Hunter St businesses wouldn’t be very impressed with that.

“This is just one of the many issues arising from the HDC’s now widely discredited anti-rail proposal.

“The Hunter Development Corporation’s cut-the-rail plan is an unsustainable, outmoded, road-based strategy that will increase the relative share of car trips into the city, increasing car-parking demand, at the same time as decreasing already scarce car-parking spaces.

“The state government has made it clear that nothing will happen without federal funding, and it’s simply unthinkable that a federal government that claims it is committed to sustainable urban development would provide public money to cut a rail line.

“As Professor Peter Newman (board member of Infrastructure Australia) told us on a recent visit to the city, to win federal infrastructure and revitalisation funding, Newcastle needs a plan based on robust evidence and research (unlike the now discredited HDC report), and capable of gaining a community consensus.

“This is what the Gold Coast did, and it’s what Newcastle could do too if the local anti-rail lobby would just drag themselves into the 21st century, stop their silly, destructive, negative, self-interested and deceptive push to cut the Newcastle rail line, and put the interests of the city first.

“If they did this, the Newcastle community could come together behind a plan for revitalising the city and for developing a 21st century public transport system based on rail.

“If they don’t, Newcastle is likely once again to miss out on federal revitalisation funding, and yet another chance will be lost on the rocks of negativity and self-interest.

“The fact is that the anti-rail campaign and their naysaying attitude to the city’s rail line has now become the greatest barrier to Newcastle’s revitalisation,” Councillor Osborne said.

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