Region transport plan on its way: Owen

NEWCASTLE MP Tim Owen has promised that the government will deliver a long-awaited transport plan for the Lower Hunter, and says Newcastle City Council criticism of the government’s statewide masterplan process is premature.

The Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday that a draft council submission raised concerns that the government’s plans were too Sydney-centric.

Commenting on the masterplan discussion paper, the council said not enough attention had been paid to the needs of regional areas.

Mr Owen said the discussion paper was only a first step in a process that would eventually include individual strategies for the Hunter and Illawarra regions.

The council’s submission expresses frustration that successive governments have failed to enact a Lower Hunter transport plan despite a procession of studies dating back to 1995.

‘‘The state plan prepared by the previous government indicated that a transport strategy would be developed for the Hunter region,’’ the submission said.

‘‘At the time, it was expected that a draft transport strategy would be publicly exhibited at the end of 2010, however, this did not occur.’’

Mr Owen said the council’s submission was premature in criticising the current government.

‘‘There is no draft [statewide] masterplan yet because it hasn’t been formulated,’’ he said. ‘‘Friday’s workshop [in Newcastle] was one of 14 around the state that are looking at [transport] issues.’’

On the issue of the inner-city rail line, the government is moving closer to a decision and Mr Owen said they were looking at the city’s transport and planning needs side by side.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard is preparing a report on land use and other proposals in the city that will include the future of the rail line.

Public transport advocates have claimed the line is a key piece of public infrastructure; developers argue it is a barrier to the harbour.

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