NEWCASTLE will stagnate for another quarter of a century if it doesn’t get ‘‘fair dinkum’’ and pull the rail line from the inner city.
The call for action came from Infrastructure NSW chairman Nick Greiner, the keynote speaker yesterday at the Hunter Business Chamber’s annual general meeting.
Endorsing the chamber’s recent proposal to cut the rail line at Wickham as ‘‘eminently sensible and broadly speaking obviously the right direction for the city’’, Mr Greiner said an ‘‘appalling level’’ of public debate on the controversial issue had stalled urban renewal in Newcastle.
‘‘This has been – and I won’t use a rude word – mucked up by really silly debate, silly things happening including from bureaucracy in terms of the costings in getting rid of the rail line,’’ he said.
‘‘I think the [O’Farrell] government is coming to a conclusion ... and my views are the same as those of the chamber, that it is simply a pre-condition for any reasonable change or renewal in the downtown part of Newcastle that you get rid of the railway line.’’
Adding fuel to the debate before an audience including Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy and Newcastle MP Tim Owen, Mr Greiner said the rail line had been running below capacity for almost two decades.
‘‘If you have a bloody railway line where the average train has 25 people on it, and that’s less than 5per cent capacity – I mean if any of you ran a business at 5per cent capacity you wouldn’t last a week. It is a joke, it’s stupid,’’ he said.
The former Liberal premier said it was imperative the city was opened up to the harbour to in turn open up opportunities for major development.
‘‘I’m sure the new city
council won’t be scared in taking aggressive action that is necessary,’’ Mr Greiner said.
‘‘You just have to get fair dinkum – if people stand in the way of the greater good in terms of the redevelopment of Newcastle, well, you can either have another 25 years of having it look like it does at the moment, or you can actually do something.’’
Mr Greiner did save some praise for what he called the ‘‘broad political governance’’ in the Hunter compared to the past where he said the business community was on the margin of political debate.
Hunter Business Chamber president Richard Anicich said the chamber would continue to push for the ‘‘right decision’’ on the rail line.
Referring to the Herald’s front-page report yesterday about the Hunter recording its highest level of unemployment since 2009, Mr Anicich said that while the employment outlook for the next few months had ‘‘deteriorated’’, the Hunter ‘‘has demonstrated its resilience in the past’’.
THE Hunter Business Chamber has elected four new directors to steer its affairs.
The new members are Peter Harvey, Gillian Geraghty, Jennie Lyons and Tim Ryan.
Chamber president Richard Anicich said the four business people would give up their time to ensure the needs of the business community were ‘‘heard and acted upon’’.
‘‘They are a strong team of individuals who have a vast background in professions,’’ he said.
‘‘This will contribute to the overall strength of the board and its ability to promote the sustainability and growth of our region.’’
Mr Anicich said the board’s immediate focus would be on infrastructure planning and ensuring effective actions were put in place in a timely manner. The chamber elections are held every two years and there are 10 elected directors and four appointed directors.