PUSHING ahead with rezoning the former heavy rail corridor presents a “tantalising” opportunity for the University of Newcastle to increase its presence in the city, Planning Minister Rob Stokes says.
Mr Stokes was in Newcastle on Friday to officially launch his new Hunter Regional Plan, a 20 year blueprint for development in the Hunter.
He said Newcastle City Council’s vote on Thursday to push ahead with the next stage of the rezoning of the former heavy rail corridor would “open the opportunity for the government to invest … probably a total of $100 million” into the city.
While Thursday’s vote only progresses the rezoning to the next stage of public consultation, it has given more details about the possible uses on the corridor.
At the meeting Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes flagged the possibility of the former Newcastle Railway Station to eventually be turned into a boutique hotel or community arts centre, and the council has pushed for the introduction of affordable housing between Merewether Street and the former Civic Station.
But if the rezoning does eventually go ahead the biggest beneficiary of what Cr Nelmes described as “light touch” development on the corridor would be the University.
The Herald has previously reported that the University is in discussions with the government to build on corridor and Honeysuckle land between Worth Place and Civic Station, and on Friday Mr Stokes said that would mean a chance to “re-imagine some former public transport land as public education land”.
At a Property Council lunch on Friday, Alan Tracey, the University’s director of infrastructure, revealed plans to bring an additional 2000 students to the city by eventually relocating its new creative industries department and additional student accomodation.
Thursday vote begins a “gateway” process that will see further consultation before the rezoning returns to council for a final decision in about 12 months.
Part of the opposition to the rezoning vote going ahead had been the absence of guarantees around transport plans.
But in a letter sent to Cr Nelmes on September 27 Transport Minister Andrew Constance committed to begin work on a Hunter Regional Transport Plan “in the next 12 months”.
In its motion the council required the state government to develop an integrated transport plan, as well fulfill its previous commitment made to the Shooters and Fishers Party to guarantee in legislation that all proceeds from development on the corridor will be reinvested in the revitalisation of Newcastle.
Cr Nelmes said on Friday the council would not vote on the rezoning until those commitments had been met.