MINISTER for the Hunter Mike Gallacher says the state government has made progress in its first year in office with plans for the city centre and Newcastle’s rail line, despite criticisms it has been ‘‘too slow’’ to make decisions.
In an interview with the Newcastle Herald ahead of the one-year anniversary on Monday of the government’s election win, Mr Gallacher said it had made ‘‘decisions in relation to quite a number of significant policy areas that we believe are going to have an impact in terms of this region’’.
It was despite feedback he received from some in the community that ‘‘you guys aren’t moving quick enough’’.
He acknowledged he had at times found it difficult to juggle the regional ministerial role with the demands of his Police and Emergency Services portfolios.
He said he had no plans to give up the Hunter portfolio, but it was ultimately a question that was ‘‘up to the boss’’.
Mr Gallacher said the Hunter’s MPs were working well as a team, particularly on the rail line issue, which they had discussed with Premier Barry O’Farrell and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner.
Mr Gallacher hinted projects to create jobs in the city were being considered as a way of softening the unpopularity any decision to remove the rail could create in areas such as Maitland.
‘‘Something has to give in that city, one way or the other,’’ he said.
Mr Gallacher cited the release of a draft strategic land use plan for the Upper Hunter as a big achievement for the government.
Farmers and environmentalists have criticised the strategy for not explicitly banning coalmining and gas proposals from agricultural land, but Mr Gallacher said the government had at least made an effort to address land use conflicts that had festered for years.
‘‘There will be people who aren’t completely happy with it no matter what it is, but at least people have something they can work towards.’’
Mr Gallacher warned the upcoming state budget would be a ‘‘tough one’’.