Deja vu for ex-premier

INFRASTRUCTURE NSW chairman Nick Greiner might have experienced a touch of deja vu yesterday when he advocated the cutting of Newcastle’s rail line.

As the state’s premier more than 20 years ago Mr Greiner commissioned one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on this vexed subject.

While pressure from developers and state government departments built for the line to be cut at Broadmeadow or Wickham – west of Stewart Avenue – Mr Greiner instructed a joint government and city council team, led by consultants Travers Morgan, to analyse the main options according to major financial, social and transport criteria.

After intense analysis, the 1990 report concluded that a new terminus and bus-rail interchange at Civic would provide the best results for the city. It would, in effect, return the rail terminus close to its original position at Honeysuckle Point, restoring connectivity with the harbour while retaining rail into the city’s heart.

History records that the proposal was caught up in bitter politics, with the Labor federal government threatening to withhold funds for the development of Honeysuckle and with some political activists misleadingly painting the proposal as a removal of rail from the city.

That brawl prevented the Greiner government from making progress and may have contributed to the seat of Newcastle swinging back to Labor.

More than two decades later history may be repeating itself, with some important differences.

Newcastle has changed dramatically since 1990. The Honeysuckle project has been largely realised, the employment and retail landscape of the inner city has been utterly transformed. Plans are on the drawing board for new state courts across the road from Civic Station, close to Newcastle City Council’s administrative and cultural centres and the proposed relocated university faculties.

With his strong views on the subject of Newcastle’s rail line, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Greiner dusts off the old report he commissioned when he was premier of NSW, all those years ago.

It might make useful reading for his present-day counterpart.

ANOTHER attack and robbery by young people near the University of Newcastle underscores the neighbourhood’s growing reputation as a social trouble-spot. This time, it is alleged, a gang of 10 young teens – including two girls – set on a man with a tree branch and rifled his backpack.

The point may be approaching where the Department of Housing and welfare agencies need to be called to the table to discuss the possibility of consciously altering the socio-economic mix in some of the residential areas close to the university.

Such steps, when eventually taken at a troubled housing estate at Booragul after years of intractable problems, appear to have improved that locale’s environment.

The reputations of the university and the city are suffering from these continuing attacks. All potentially helpful ideas need to be considered.

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