PREMIER Barry O’Farrell promises announcements before Christmas on the state government’s plans for light rail in the Newcastle central business district.
Speaking yesterday morning at the opening of a one-stop shop for government services in Parry Street, Newcastle, Mr O’Farrell refused to be drawn on details of the government’s light rail plan but confirmed ‘‘there will be announcements before Christmas on some of those matters’’.
With Labor still in favour of retaining the existing rail line, Mr O’Farrell said the cutting of the rail line was ‘‘a project that for 16years was on again, off again, on again and off again and we are determined to deal with it’’.
‘‘I want this up and running as quickly as possible, we have committed ourselves to it, we have sourced the funds for it and we are determined to get on with it,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.
He defended his government’s intention to send two-thirds of the money from the privatisation of the Port of Newcastle out of the region, and he dismissed criticism of a plan to refurbish, rather than rebuild, police stations at Morisset and Toronto, saying ‘‘money doesn’t grow on trees’’.
The government has promised $340million from the port lease for the rail line, on top of $120million pledged previously to the project.
Mr O’Farrell was joined at the Parry Street centre by Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell, Newcastle MP Tim Owen and Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann.
Mr O’Farrell said the one-stop shops were designed to allow people to visit the one place to do their over-the-counter government transactions regardless of the agency or department involved.
He said more than 850 transactions were already covered by the centres, with more to come.
He acknowledged that other government offices had closed as a result of the ‘‘one-stop shop’’ approach but said the new Parry Street office employed 23 people, in contrast with the 17 he said had worked at the former motor registry office a few doors west along Parry Street.
He said the Parry Street centre had served more than 11,000 Hunter residents and businesses since opening on November 12.
He said the government had almost finished building an initial batch of 18 centres and indicated another was likely to be built somewhere in the region.