Friday, 21 May 2010

City’s future must come first, say Greens

Newcastle Greens
21 May 2010

Newcastle Greens today called on the Fix Our City group to be honest about its agenda to cut the Newcastle rail line.

“Many members of the public aren’t aware that this group is bankrolled by the same developers who have been trying to cut the Newcastle rail line for decades,” Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne said.

“The group is still hiding behind its innocent sounding, but highly misleading, “Fix Our City” facade, when it is really just the same old “cut the rail” brigade.

“Members of the public who go along to the meeting that this group has called for early June may do so genuinely believing that they are supporting a campaign to revitalise the Newcastle Central Business District, without realising that the group is really just the latest front for the local anti-rail campaign.

“The vested interests behind this group have been so determined for so long to cut the city’s rail line that they are now prepared to go to any lengths to get what they want.

“Those in the community who know the forces behind the Fix Our City campaign see the irony and hypocrisy of the name, because they are the same vested interests who have refused to accept that it is absurd to remove a rail line, and to recognise that their campaign is actually preventing Newcastle from presenting a rail-based public transport project that would have a chance of winning federal revitalisation funding.

“Visiting transport expert Professor Peter Newman confirmed this week what The Greens have been saying since the start of the most recent anti-rail campaign: no campaign advocating removing a rail line has any chance of winning federal revitalisation funding, because the federal government knows that it just doesn’t stack up, economically, environmentally, socially or politically.

“It’s time for the local developers and others behind the anti-rail Fix Our City campaign to put the future of our city before their own vested interests, or accept the responsibility for Newcastle missing out on the opportunity for federal funding assistance,” Councillor Osborne said.

Councillor Osborne also called on the federal member for Newcastle, Sharon Greirson, to take a more proactive role in the rail issue.

“Ms Greirson should be making it clear to these local developers that their anti-rail campaign is undermining the city’s federal funding opportunities, and should take a leadership role in bringing the Newcastle community together to develop a revitalisation plan that could be accepted by the federal government.

“The local community and The Greens have always been willing to engage productively in any genuine effort to revitalise our ailing city,” Councillor Osborne said.

“Look how quickly the city-campus fell into place once it was clear that it had genuine support across the whole Newcastle community,” he said.

“We need an approach to Newcastle’s public transport system that can win the same kind of consensus, and we can’t afford to let narrow vested interests stand in the way of achieving this any longer.”

Council hides in the dark on coal

Newcastle Greens
21 May 2010

Newcastle City Council is burying its head in the sand on the potential impact of coal on the community and the role and responsibilities of local government, according to Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne.

The council this week rejected Councillor Osborne’s call for a scoping report that would examine the potential impact of planned massive increases in coal transport through the Newcastle local government area.

Councillor Osborne was the only councillor to vote in favour of the motion.

“It’s a depressing indicator of just how far away from reality the current council has drifted,” Councillor Osborne said.

“My motion pointed out that the massive and unprecedented increase in coal exports planned for the port of Newcastle has direct implications for council (in terms of infrastructure maintenance, traffic management, and planning), but the other councillors demonstrated that they would rather not even know about what these impacts might be.

“It was a classic case of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’,” he said.

“This just reinforces the unfortunate and increasing perception in the local community that this council gives a higher priority to personal in-fighting than it does to issues of real importance,” Councillor Osborne said.

“Some of the comments from councillors during the debate were extraordinary,” he said.

“One councillor (Clr Scott Sharpe) went so far as to claim that coal had no impact on the Newcastle community!

“I get a very different impression from the people I talk to in my local community, who are concerned about dust, noise and vibration impacts from coal transport and coal loading operations,” Councillor Osborne said.

“It’s time that Newcastle councillors took a reality check and started dealing with the big public policy challenges that face our community,” Councillor Osborne said.