Constance will 'work with' council on rail corridor | poll

LIGHT TOUCH: Newcastle City Council agreed last week to begin the process of rezoning the former rail corridor, but not before the government completes an integrated transport plan for the city.

LIGHT TOUCH: Newcastle City Council agreed last week to begin the process of rezoning the former rail corridor, but not before the government completes an integrated transport plan for the city.

THE Baird government says it will “work with” Newcastle City Council on the rezoning of the former heavy rail corridor, but has dodged questions about the timing of the key transport plan that Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes says is needed before the plan can progress.

Last Thursday the council passed a motion that allowed the rezoning of the corridor and its “light touch” development to progress to the next stage of public consultation.

The decision means the rezoning plan will likely come back to the council for a final decision in about 12 months, but the council’s motion stated it would require “the following commitments” before it would give the rezoning a final approval.

The commitments include an “integrated transport plan” and legislation the government previously committed to that would mean all proceeds from the sale of land on the rail corridor would be spent in Newcastle.

It came after NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance wrote to Cr Nelmes last month to say the government would work on the plan “in the next 12 months”.

The wording of the motion has been criticised by former Greens councillor John Sutton for not requiring the completion of the reports.

“The key point here is that this wording doesn't require the state government to actually do any of these things,” he said.

“It simply requires them to make commitments to do them.”

But Cr Nelmes said the government was clear on the council’s position. 

“I’ve spoken to Urbangrowth and [Planning Minister Rob] Stokes who have both indicated to me that they understand council’s position and want to work with us and will take it on face value that we expect it to be done within the next 12 months,” she said.

“The motion is actually very clear and the intention was very clear and I was very clear in the months leading up to this of what was required.”

Asked if the government would comply with the council’s conditions a spokesman for Mr Constance repeated his statement that work on the transport plan would take place “in the next 12 months”.

However he said the timing would be “determined by Council [and] the Department of Planning.”

“The timing associated with a final decision about rezoning the corridor land will be determined by Council,” he said.

Asked when promised legislation on keeping money from the corridor in Newcastle would be introduced, the spokesman said the government would “work with Council to determine the best way to satisfy their request for legal assurance in regards to the proceeds of the corridor development”.

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